VietNamNet Bridge – Titaniumium is considered the material of the future. Where is the fledgling titaniumium industry of Vietnam on the world map?
At the global titaniumium conference held in late 2007 in Singapore, there were two delegations from Vietnam. One is from the Ha Tinh Minerals and Trade Corporation and the other from the Dat Quang – Chu Lai Company.
The conference attracted 260 titanium researchers, developers and processors from 29 countries and territories. Vietnamese delegates were dazzled by a “forest’ of books about titanium, which were displayed and sold at the conference. And these books were very expensive. A 100-pager costs $10,000 on average. A whole set of books is worth approximately $1 million.
As the titanium processing industry in Vietnam is very young, Vietnamese delegates didn’t speak at the conference, but listened to presentations and exchanged ideas with others to learn experience and knowledge to develop this industry domestically.
Previously, in early 2007, the Ministry of Industry and Trade submitted to the government a master plan to develop the titanium industry in 2007-2015 and the vision to 2025. In July 2007, the Prime Minister approved the plan.
Under this plan, Vietnam’s titanium ore deposits are estimated at around 34.5 million tons. The Government permits the exploration and exploitation of titanium ore in the provinces of Thai Nguyen, Thanh Hoa, Ha Tinh, Quang Tri, Thua Thien – Hue, Binh Dinh, Phu Yen, Binh Thuan, and Ba Ria – Vung Tau. Titanium exploiting projects are licensed in eight provinces, totaling VND64 billion of capital.
Tai H. Do, a Vietnamese American, who is now an aviation and space technology advisor to the US’s Alcoa Group, who suggested eight measures to develop titanium in a sustainable way in Vietnam, was very glad to know about the master plan and the participation of Vietnamese delegates in the global titanium conference. According to him, these moves show that Vietnam is beginning to integrate into the world titanium map.
According to Nguyen Thuong Dat, Chairman of the Executive Board of Dat Quang Company, Vietnam accounts for around 5% of the total titanium deposits around the world, ranking behind Canada, the US, Norway, India and Australia.
In recent years, the need for titanium is rising quickly in Vietnam and the country has to spend around $40 million to import the metal. “We have to exploit and process titanium to ensure economic development, natural resource saving and sustainable development,” Dat said.
After two trips back to Vietnam to work as a consultant for titan exploiting companies Tai H. Do said: “It is good for Vietnam to have titanium and Vietnam should consider it a strategic weapon in terms of technology and economics. Vietnam should invest properly in industries manufacturing titanium-based products so one day Vietnam can use local materials to make aircraft and spacecraft”.
Local companies are using local technologies to exploit titanium and one is a technology that won second prize at the Vietnam Sci-tech Creativity Awards 2002 (Vifotech) and the State Sci-tech Awards 2005.
Prior to 2002, Vietnamese companies used electromagnetic equipment to dress titanium ore, which consumed a lot of power and only produced semi-pure titanium. Since 2003, a new technology has been implemented, using a special kind of magnet. This new technology helps save power worth VND90 million/machine/year.
This machine is manufactured by the Institute for Material Sciences and its introduction was considered a revolution in the titanium exploiting and processing industry. Within 5 years, big companies bought 65 machines of this kind, including 21 at the Ha Tinh Minerals and Trade Corporation and 12 at Binh Dinh Mineral JS Company.
Along with the new equipment, Vietnamese scientists developed some titanium processing technology. The best produces Zircon 65% ZrO2 material, which was developed by engineer Nguyen Hoanh Son; it allows Vietnam to produce super-silky zircon using local materials. Son received several awards for his work.
Currently up to one half of the total titanium output of Vietnam is processed by the new technology and equipment. The Ha Tinh Mineral and Trade Corporation sells titanium products to Dupont, a famous American TiO2 Pigment producer. However, Vietnam is unable to produce certain titanium-based products yet, which require more advanced technology and equipment.
Foreign customers began to buy Vietnam’s pure titanium ore in 1990 and the demand is increasing. Vietnam plans to invest more in this industry to be able to process high-value products from titanium for export.
Domestic titanium production needs to enter new age
The Vietnam Titanium Association has 20 members, 10 of which specialize in exploiting titanium. These members paid taxes worth more than VND60 billion in 2006.
Since the association was established, the titanium industry has seen a new order take shape and not all the problems have been worked out yet.
The licensing of titanium exploration and exploitation in some provinces is unorganized, Quang Nam is a typical example. This province has remarkable titanium reserves. So far it has licensed ten titanium developers, including some companies that didn’t meet conditions. Some companies employ unhealthy competition methods to impede others and recently a company sued local authorities.
Other provinces like Ha Tinh, Binh Thuan, Thua Thien – Hue and Binh Dinh went through a similar period but have now restored order.
Tai H. Do hopes that one day Vietnamese refined titanium will be used to manufacture component parts of Boeings, Airbus and spacecraft. He is willing to work as an advisor for the central province of Quang Nam in designing a sustainable titanium development strategy.
Engineer Nguyen Xuan Chau, a Vietnamese Australian with 25 years of experience in designing mines and ore processors said: “Australia is constructing many titanium processing plants. Vietnam needs to protect this rare natural resource by building similar plants. If you want, I and Australian friends will help design factories in Vietnam”.
Nguyen Thuong Dat, Chairman of Dat Quang Company said many Asian countries have implemented titanium manufacturing and exploiting strategies for decades, like China, India, Indonesia and Malaysia.
At the international titanium conference in Singapore, an expert commented: “You (Vietnam) are selling cheap crude titanium and importing most of the products processed from your crude titanium from Dupont (USA), ISK (Japan), Cosmo (South Korea), Hutsman (Malaysia), and Johnson Matthey (Brazil). Vietnam can learn big lessons from regional countries. From now on, titanium ore producers must focus on processing titanium. Under the Government’s support, in the next 4-5 years, the titanium industry will be able to contribute remarkably to the GDP structure of Vietnam’s processing industry. If you exploit and export crude titanium, your titanium resources will be exhausted in the next seven years”.