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Ilmenite from Miass, Ilmen Mts, Chelyabinsk Oblast', Southern Urals, Urals Region, Russia. 4.5 x 4.3 x 1.5 cm
Category Oxide mineral
(repeating unit)
iron titanium oxide, FeTiO
Strunz classification 4.CB.05
Dana classification04.03.05.01
Crystal system Trigonal
Crystal class Rhombohedral (3)
H-M symbol: (3)
Space group R3
Unit cell a = 5.08854(7)
c = 14.0924(3) [Å]: Z = 6
ColorIron-black; gray with a brownish tint in reflected light
Crystal habit Granular to massive and lamellar exsolutions in hematite or magnetite
Twinning {0001} simple, {1011} lamellar
Cleavage absent; parting on {0001} and {1011}
Fracture Conchoidal to subconchoidal
Tenacity Brittle
Mohs scale hardness5–6
Luster Metallic to submetallic
Streak Black
Diaphaneity Opaque
Specific gravity 4.70–4.79
Optical propertiesUniaxial (–)
Birefringence Strong; O = pinkish brown, E = dark brown (bireflectance)
Other characteristicsweakly magnetic
References [1] [2] [3]
Crystal structure of ilmenite Ilmenite.GIF
Crystal structure of ilmenite

Ilmenite, also known as manaccanite, is a titanium-iron oxide mineral with the idealized formula FeTiO
. It is a weakly magnetic black or steel-gray solid. From a commercial perspective, ilmenite is the most important ore of titanium. [4] Ilmenite is the main source of titanium dioxide, which is used in paints, printing inks [5] , fabrics, plastics, paper, sunscreen, food and cosmetics. [6]

Titanium Chemical element with atomic number 22

Titanium is a chemical element with symbol Ti and atomic number 22. It is a lustrous transition metal with a silver color, low density, and high strength. Titanium is resistant to corrosion in sea water, aqua regia, and chlorine.

Titanium dioxide chemical compound

Titanium dioxide, also known as titanium(IV) oxide or titania, is the naturally occurring oxide of titanium, chemical formula TiO
. When used as a pigment, it is called titanium white, Pigment White 6 (PW6), or CI 77891. Generally, it is sourced from ilmenite, rutile and anatase. It has a wide range of applications, including paint, sunscreen and food coloring. When used as a food coloring, it has E number E171. World production in 2014 exceeded 9 million metric tons. It has been estimated that titanium dioxide is used in two-thirds of all pigments, and pigments based on the oxide has been valued at $13.2 billion.


Structure and properties

Ilmenite crystallizes in the trigonal system. The ilmenite crystal structure consists of an ordered derivative of the corundum structure; in corundum all cations are identical but in ilmenite Fe2+ and Ti4+ ions occupy alternating layers perpendicular to the trigonal c axis. Containing high spin ferrous centers, ilmenite is paramagnetic.

Crystal structure Ordered arrangement of atoms, ions, or molecules in a crystalline material

In crystallography, crystal structure is a description of the ordered arrangement of atoms, ions or molecules in a crystalline material. Ordered structures occur from the intrinsic nature of the constituent particles to form symmetric patterns that repeat along the principal directions of three-dimensional space in matter.

Corundum oxide mineral

Corundum is a crystalline form of aluminium oxide typically containing traces of iron, titanium, vanadium and chromium. It is a rock-forming mineral. It is also a naturally transparent material, but can have different colors depending on the presence of transition metal impurities in its crystalline structure. Corundum has two primary gem varieties: ruby and sapphire. Rubies are red due to the presence of chromium, and sapphires exhibit a range of colors depending on what transition metal is present. A rare type of sapphire, padparadscha sapphire, is pink-orange.

Ilmenite is commonly recognized in altered igneous rocks by the presence of a white alteration product, the pseudo-mineral leucoxene. Often ilmenites are rimmed with leucoxene, which allows ilmenite to be distinguished from magnetite and other iron-titanium oxides. The example shown in the image at right is typical of leucoxene-rimmed ilmenite.

Leucoxene is a fine granular alteration product of titanium minerals. It varies in color from yellow to brown.

Magnetite iron ore mineral

Magnetite is a rock mineral and one of the main iron ores, with the chemical formula Fe3O4. It is one of the oxides of iron, and is ferrimagnetic; it is attracted to a magnet and can be magnetized to become a permanent magnet itself. It is the most magnetic of all the naturally-occurring minerals on Earth. Naturally-magnetized pieces of magnetite, called lodestone, will attract small pieces of iron, which is how ancient peoples first discovered the property of magnetism. Today it is mined as iron ore.

In reflected light it may be distinguished from magnetite by more pronounced reflection pleochroism and a brown-pink tinge.

Pleochroism optical phenomenon in which a substance appears to be different colors when observed at different angles, especially with polarized light

Pleochroism is an optical phenomenon in which a substance has different colors when observed at different angles, especially with polarized light.

Samples of ilmenite exhibit a weak response to a hand magnet.


In 1791 William Gregor discovered ilmenite, in a stream that runs through the valley just south of the village of Manaccan (Cornwall), and identified for the first time Titanium as one of the constituents of ilmenite. [7]

Manaccan civil parish and village on the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall, England

Manaccan is a civil parish and village on the Lizard peninsula in south Cornwall, England, United Kingdom. The village is about five miles (8 km) south-southwest of Falmouth.

Cornwall County of England

Cornwall is a county in South West England in the United Kingdom. The county is bordered to the north and west by the Celtic Sea, to the south by the English Channel, and to the east by the county of Devon, over the River Tamar which forms most of the border between them. Cornwall forms the westernmost part of the South West Peninsula of the island of Great Britain. The furthest southwestern point of Great Britain is Land's End; the southernmost point is Lizard Point. Cornwall has a population of 563,600 and covers an area of 3,563 km2 (1,376 sq mi). The county has been administered since 2009 by the unitary authority, Cornwall Council. The ceremonial county of Cornwall also includes the Isles of Scilly, which are administered separately. The administrative centre of Cornwall, and its only city, is Truro.

Mineral chemistry

Ilmenite from Froland, Aust-Agder, Norway; 4.1 x 4.1 x 3.8 cm Ilmenite-65675.jpg
Ilmenite from Froland, Aust-Agder, Norway; 4.1 x 4.1 x 3.8 cm
Ilmenite and hematite under normal light Ilmenite and hematite under normal light.jpg
Ilmenite and hematite under normal light
Ilmenite and hematite under polarized light Ilmenite and hematite under polarized light.jpg
Ilmenite and hematite under polarized light

Ilmenite most often contains appreciable quantities of magnesium and manganese and the full chemical formula can be expressed as (Fe,Mg,Mn,Ti)O3. Ilmenite forms a solid solution with geikielite (MgTiO
) and pyrophanite (MnTiO
) which are magnesian and manganiferous end-members of the solid solution series.

Although there appears evidence of the complete range of mineral chemistries in the (Fe,Mg,Mn,Ti)O3 system naturally occurring on Earth, the vast bulk of ilmenites are restricted to close to the ideal FeTiO
composition, with minor mole percentages of Mn and Mg. A key exception is in the ilmenites of kimberlites where the mineral usually contains major amounts of geikielite molecules, and in some highly differentiated felsic rocks ilmenites may contain significant amounts of pyrophanite molecules.

At higher temperatures it has been demonstrated there is a complete solid solution between ilmenite and hematite. There is a miscibility gap at lower temperatures, resulting in a coexistence of these two minerals in rocks but no solid solution. This coexistence may result in exsolution lamellae in cooled ilmenites with more iron in the system than can be homogeneously accommodated in the crystal lattice.

Altered ilmenite forms the mineral leucoxene, an important source of titanium in heavy mineral sands ore deposits. Leucoxene is a typical component of altered gabbro and diorite and is generally indicative of ilmenite in the unaltered rock.


Tellnes opencast ilmenite mine, Sokndal, Norway Tellnes.jpg
Tellnes opencast ilmenite mine, Sokndal, Norway

Ilmenite is a common accessory mineral found in metamorphic and igneous rocks. It is found in large concentrations in layered intrusions where it forms as part of a cumulate layer within the silicate stratigraphy of the intrusion. Ilmenite generally occurs within the pyroxenitic portion of such intrusions (the 'pyroxene-in' level).

Magnesian ilmenite is indicative of kimberlitic paragenesis and forms part of the MARID association of minerals (mica-amphibole-rutile-ilmenite-diopside) assemblage of glimmerite xenoliths. Manganiferous ilmenite is found in granitic rocks and also in carbonatite intrusions where it may also contain anomalous niobium.

Many mafic igneous rocks contain grains of intergrown magnetite and ilmenite, formed by the oxidation of ulvospinel. Ilmenite also occurs as discrete grains, typically with some hematite in solid solution, and complete solid solution exists between the two minerals at temperatures above about 950 °C.

Titanium was identified for the first time by William Gregor in 1791 in ilmenite from the Manaccan valley in Cornwall, southwest England.

Ilmenite is named after the locality of its discovery in the Ilmensky Mountains, near Miass, Russia.

Processing and consumption

Most ilmenite is mined for titanium dioxide production. [8] In 2011, about 47% of the titanium dioxide produced worldwide were based on this material. [9] Ilmenite and/or titanium dioxide are used in the production of Titanium metal. [10] [11]

Titanium dioxide is most used as a white pigment and the major consuming industries for TiO2 pigments are paints and surface coatings, plastics, and paper and paperboard. Per capita consumption of TiO2 in China is about 1.1 kilograms per year, compared with 2.7 kilograms for Western Europe and the United States. [12]

Various ilmenite feedstock grades. [13]
Ore<50Smelting (slag)
Synthetic rutile88-95Chloride
Chloride slag85-95Chloride
Sulfate slag80Sulfate

Ilmenite can be converted into pigment grade titanium dioxide via either the sulfate process or the chloride process.

Ilmenite can also be improved and purified to Rutile using the Becher process.

Ilmenite ores can also be converted to liquid iron and a titanium rich slag using a smelting process. [14]

Ilmenite ore is used as a flux by steelmakers to line blast furnace hearth refractory. [15]

Ilmenite sand is also used as a sandblasting agent in the cleaning of diecasting dies.

Ilmenite can be used to produce ferrotitanium via an aluminothermic reduction. [16]

Feedstock production

Estimated contained TiO
production [13] [17]
(Metric tpa x 1,000,
ilmenite & rutile)
Australia 1,300247
South Africa 1,161190
Mozambique 516250
Canada 700
India 574
China 500
Vietnam 490
Ukraine 357
Senegal -330
Norway 300
United States 300
Madagascar 288
Kenya -246
Sri Lanka 62
Sierra Leone 60
Brazil 48
Other countries37
Total world~6,700~1,250

Australia was the world's largest ilmenite ore producer in 2011, with about 1.3 million tonnes of production, followed by South Africa, Canada, Mozambique, India, China, Vietnam, Ukraine, Norway, Madagascar and United States.

Although most ilmenite is recovered from heavy mineral sands ore deposits, ilmenite can also be recovered from layered intrusive sources or "hard rock" titanium ore sources.

The top four ilmenite and rutile feedstock producers in 2010 were Rio Tinto Group, Iluka Resources, Exxaro and Kenmare Resources, which collectively accounted for more than 60% of world's supplies. [18]

The world's two largest open cast ilmenite mines are:

Major mineral sands based ilmenite mining operations include:

Attractive major potential ilmenite deposits include:

Most ilmenite ore production from Canada, South Africa and Norway is destined for titaniferous slag application.[ citation needed ]

Lunar ilmenite

Ilmenite has been found in Moon rocks, [23] and is typically highly enriched in magnesium similar to the kimberlitic association. In 2005 [24] NASA used the Hubble Space Telescope to locate potentially ilmenite-rich locations. This mineral could be essential to an eventual Moon base, as ilmenite would provide a source of iron and titanium for the building of structures and essential oxygen extraction.

Related Research Articles

Bauxite aluminium ore

Bauxite is a sedimentary rock with a relatively high aluminium content. It is the world's main source of aluminium. Bauxite consists mostly of the aluminium minerals gibbsite (Al(OH)3), boehmite (γ-AlO(OH)) and diaspore (α-AlO(OH)), mixed with the two iron oxides goethite and haematite, the aluminium clay mineral kaolinite and small amounts of anatase (TiO2) and ilmenite (FeTiO3 or FeO.TiO2).

Ore rock with valuable metals, minerals and elements

An ore is an occurrence of rock or sediment that contains sufficient minerals with economically important elements, typically metals, that can be economically extracted from the deposit. The ores are extracted from the earth through mining; they are then refined to extract the valuable element, or elements.

Rutile oxide mineral

Rutile is a mineral composed primarily of titanium dioxide (TiO2).

Iron ore ore rich in iron or the element Fe

Iron ores are rocks and minerals from which metallic iron can be economically extracted. The ores are usually rich in iron oxides and vary in colour from dark grey, bright yellow, or deep purple to rusty red. The iron is usually found in the form of magnetite (Fe
, 72.4% Fe), hematite (Fe
, 69.9% Fe), goethite (FeO(OH), 62.9% Fe), limonite (FeO(OH)·n(H2O), 55% Fe) or siderite (FeCO3, 48.2% Fe).

Placer deposit accumulation of valuable minerals formed by gravity separation during sedimentary processes

In geology, a placer deposit or placer is an accumulation of valuable minerals formed by gravity separation from a specific source rock during sedimentary processes. The name is from the Spanish word placer, meaning "alluvial sand". Placer mining is an important source of gold, and was the main technique used in the early years of many gold rushes, including the California Gold Rush. Types of placer deposits include alluvium, eluvium, beach placers, and paleoplacers.

Armalcolite Oxide mineral

Armalcolite is a titanium-rich mineral with the chemical formula (Mg,Fe2+)Ti2O5. It was first found at Tranquility Base on the Moon in 1969 and is named for Armstrong, Aldrin and Collins, the three Apollo 11 astronauts. Together with tranquillityite and pyroxferroite, it is one of three new minerals that were discovered on the Moon. Armalcolite was later identified at various locations on Earth and has been synthesized in the laboratory. (Tranquillityite and pyroxferroite were also later found at various locations on Earth). The synthesis requires low pressures, high temperatures and rapid quenching from about 1,000 °C to the ambient temperature. Armalcolite breaks down to a mixture of magnesium-rich ilmenite and rutile at temperatures below 1,000 °C, but the conversion slows down with cooling. Because of this quenching requirement, armalcolite is relatively rare and is usually found in association with ilmenite and rutile, among other minerals.

Chromite spinel, oxide mineral

Chromite is a mineral and can be described as an iron chromium oxide, with a chemical formula of FeCr2O4. It is an oxide mineral belonging to the spinel group. The element magnesium can substitute for iron in variable amounts as it forms a solid solution with magnesiochromite (MgCr2O4). A substitution of the element aluminium can also occur, leading to hercynite (FeAl2O4). Chromite today is mined particularly to make stainless steel through the production of ferrochrome (FeCr), which is an iron-chromium alloy.

Ore genesis How the various types of mineral deposits form within the Earths crust.

Various theories of ore genesis explain how the various types of mineral deposits form within the Earth's crust. Ore-genesis theories vary depending on the mineral or commodity examined.

Cumulate rock

Cumulate rocks are igneous rocks formed by the accumulation of crystals from a magma either by settling or floating. Cumulate rocks are named according to their texture; cumulate texture is diagnostic of the conditions of formation of this group of igneous rocks. Cumulates can be deposited on top of other older cumulates of different composition and colour, typically giving the cumulate rock a layered or banded appearance.

Heavy mineral sands ore deposits

Heavy mineral sands are a class of ore deposit which is an important source of zirconium, titanium, thorium, tungsten, rare-earth elements, the industrial minerals diamond, sapphire, garnet, and occasionally precious metals or gemstones.

The Tiwest Joint Venture was a joint venture between Tronox Western Australia Pty Ltd and subsidiaries of Exxaro Australia Sands Pty Ltd. The Tiwest Joint Venture was a mining and processing company, established in 1988, to extract ilmenite, rutile, leucoxene and zircon from a mineral sands deposit at Cooljarloo, 14 km north of Cataby, Western Australia. As of June 2012, the joint venture was formally dissolved, when Tronox acquired the mineral-sands-related divisions of Exxaro outright.

Ulvöspinel spinel, oxide mineral

Ulvöspinel or ulvite is an iron titanium oxide mineral with formula: Fe2TiO4 or TiFe2+2O4. It forms brown to black metallic isometric crystals with a Mohs hardness of 5.5 to 6. It belongs to the spinel group of minerals, as does magnetite, Fe3O4.

Mineral redox buffer

In geology, a redox buffer is an assemblage of minerals or compounds that constrains oxygen fugacity as a function of temperature. Knowledge of the redox conditions (or equivalently, oxygen fugacities) at which a rock forms and evolves can be important for interpreting the rock history. Iron, sulfur, and manganese are three of the relatively abundant elements in the Earth's crust that occur in more than one oxidation state. For instance, iron, the fourth most abundant element in the crust, exists as native iron, ferrous iron (Fe2+), and ferric iron (Fe3+). The redox state of a rock affects the relative proportions of the oxidation states of these elements and hence may determine both the minerals present and their compositions. If a rock contains pure minerals that constitute a redox buffer, then the oxygen fugacity of equilibration is defined by one of the curves in the accompanying fugacity-temperature diagram.

Kenmare Resources

Kenmare Resources plc is a mining company based in the Republic of Ireland. It is listed on the Irish Stock Exchange and the London Stock Exchange. Kenmare owns and operates the Moma mine. Moma is the world’s largest titanium mineral deposit, located 160km from the city of Nampula in Mozambique, Africa.

Schreyerite (V2Ti3O9), is a vanadium, titanium oxide mineral found in the Lasamba Hill, Kwale district in Coast Province, Kenya. It is polymorphous with kyzylkumite.

The Becher Process is an industrial process used to upgrade ilmenite to synthetic rutile.

Richards Bay Minerals (RBM) is a South African mining company. RBM's principal product is titanium dioxide in the form of an 85% pure titanium dioxide slag; the company also produces the higher-purity 95% titanium dioxide product rutile as well as pig iron and zircon.


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