There’s plenty of magnesium metal around these days. Reason: Demand looks to be falling by more than 10% this year because of the collapse of its major market, motor vehicle parts. Magnesium prices are down as a result, but not as low as might be expected because of punitive tariffs imposed against Chinese and Russian magnesium suppliers. Upshot: Magnesium die casters and fabricators are looking for new uses of the lightweight metal.
Despite new applications in making laptop computers, power tools, sporting goods and office furniture, North American magnesium diecasting use has slipped in making die castings for aerospace, automotive and machinery parts. Use of magnesium oxide in the production of aluminum and steel also has dropped dramatically since smelting of both metals has collapsed.
And, it could be 2011–2012 before North American magnesium sales volume rebounds to 2005–2007 tonnage, suggests Greg Patzer, executive vice president of the International Magnesium Association in Wauconda, Ill. “The 2008–2009 recession has had the most profound impact on demand and production, and 2010 probably won’t be a strong recovery year.”
The collapse of auto and truck assembly in North America has cut projected magnesium use to 67,300 metric tons this year from an annual average of 81,600 metric tons in the previous five years. The slowdown in aviation production also has reduced magnesium need. Airlines have canceled and deferred orders this year as the global recession has reduced flight demand. Boeing has had 85 orders and 84 cancellations through June, leaving the Chicago-based firm with a mid-year net order book of just one plane. Toulouse, France-based Airbus hasn’t released its figures yet but global airlines are mimicking Qantas, which has deferred deliveries of four Airbus SAS A380 superjumbo jetliners.