Motivated by the recent publication of a material flow analysis for magnesium metal as part of the European Commission’s Material System Analysis (MSA) of Critical Raw Materials which, in the opinion of the IMA, did not correctly interpret the available data on magnesium’s usage and end of life within the European Union.
The main differences in the findings of this study compared to those reported in the MSA study are:
- This study finds the figure for Mg imports into the EU is 18% higher than reported in the MSA study.
- This study finds exports are over double those identified in the MSA study.
- Landfill in the EU is only 30% of that identified in the MSA study.
- The MSA study includes only old scrap functional recycling, while this study also quantified functional recycling of new scrap.
- Non-functional recycling of Mg is an order of magnitude higher than in the MSA study,
- Instead of 9 kT of de-accumulation as in the MSA study, this study found there were 34 kT of in-use Mg accumulation.
The Sankey diagram here below show the main findings of this study:
The End of Life - Recycling Input Rate (EoL-RIR, measuring the percentage of magnesium coming from End of Life scrap in the total amount of magnesium entering the EU) was also derived from the material flow analysis data. At 7% the EoL-RIR of Mg is low, lower than that of Al at 12% (global, not EU specific value). This was not unexpected given the dispersive nature of some of Mg’s applications, and the collection and recycling inefficiencies.
The main improvements in collection and recycling efficiencies that could increase the recycling rate of Mg are:
- Greater dismantling of Al and Mg alloy components from ELVs (average of 4.1 kgs of magnesium in a car built in 2012 including magnesium in aluminium alloys).
- Even higher collection rate of End of Life aluminium beverage cans (average magnesium content: 1.6%).
- Technological advances in the automated sorting of Al alloy fractions from shredding.
- Diverting more high Mg-containing Al alloys to remelters, who generally try to retain the Mg in their input materials, rather than by refiners, who do not.
- Diverting more segregated End of Life Mg alloys to specialist Mg recyclers.
- Better slag utilisation by the Al and steel industries (non-functional recycling only).
1. 'Old scrap' refers to end of life post-consumer scrap and 'New scrap' refers to the scrap generated in manufacturing processes which generally has a known composition and origin and has not been sold to end users.
2. In-use accumulation/de-accumulation refers to the change, either positive or negative respectively, in magnesium that is effectively stockpiled in products being used in the EU in a given year.
3. Functional recycling refers to reprocessing at the end of life which retains the value of the magnesium whether it be in the form of a magnesium product or as an alloying element ( e.g. in aluminum alloys); whereas non-functional recycling relates to the reuse of the material in a form where its use is beneficial ( e.g. in road building aggregates or mineral wool) where the magnesium is not landfilled, but the final properties of the product are not critically dependent upon the magnesium content.
1. Study on Data for a Raw Material System Analysis: Roadmap and Test of the Fully Operational MSA for Raw Materials, DG GROW, 2015 https://ec.europa.eu/jrc/en/scientific-tool/msa
At the 74th IMA World Magnesium Conference in Singapore (May 2017), the CM Group (a privately owned, independent global non-ferrous research house: http://cmgroup.net/) reported that in 2016 total magnesium consumption worldwide was 843kt, with production at 878kt. The same source stated that Chinese production accounted for 743kt (85%) of Global Production. Whilst China dominates the world’s primary supply position most magnesium being imported into the EU is of Chinese origin and as such magnesium is likely to remain on the EU’s Critical Raw Materials list as it is an important material in many industries that cannot be substituted. The dependency upon Chinese magnesium may in the future be reduced by other magnesium projects that are being developed or have been developed in Turkey, Norway, Australia, India, the USA and Canada.
The major end uses of magnesium within the EU are illustrated below: