Which Country Has the Most Fluorite Mineral?

Fluorite, also known as fluorspar, is an important industrial mineral composed of calcium and fluorine (CaF2). It is considered a halide mineral. Fluorite has a wide variety of uses including in the manufacture of steel, aluminum, glass, enamelware and hydrofluoric acid. It is also used to make fluorine gas and foam products like refrigerants. Other uses are in optoelectronics, lithium batteries and camera lenses. With its many industrial applications, fluorite is a strategically important mineral for a country to have in abundant reserves. But which country has the most fluorite?

China is by far the leading producer of fluorite in the world, accounting for over 60% of global production. In 2021, China produced over 4 million metric tons of the mineral. The country has enormous reserves contained in large fluorite mines primarily located in the provinces of Hunan,Inner Mongolia, Jiangxi, Guangdong and Shandong.

China’s first exploitable deposits of fluorite were discovered in the 1930s. Production steadily ramped up in subsequent decades to supply the country’s growing steel and aluminum industries. China instituted market reforms in the 1980s that spurred greater investment in mining and exponential increases in fluorite production. Now the mineral forms part of China’s strategic stockpile of resources.

The prodigious production of fluorite has enabled China to become the world’s largest exporter of the mineral. It supplies fluorite to countries across Asia, Europe and the Americas. The leading consumers of Chinese fluorspar include Mexico, the United States, the European Union and Southeast Asian nations.

China’s dominance in fluorspar production is attributed to a number of factors:

  • Abundant reserves – China sits on the largest known reserves of fluorite in the world estimated at over 240 million tons. This allows massive scales of production.
  • Inexpensive labor – Labor costs are relatively low enabling the labor-intensive mining of fluorite to be conducted economically.
  • Lax regulations – Environmental and safety regulations in mining and processing are not as stringent as in Western nations. This reduces costs.
  • State support – The Chinese government provides subsidies and incentives to enable large-scale fluorite production. The mineral is regarded as strategic.
  • Downstream industries – Massive steel, aluminum and chemical industries provide ready demand for fluorite. Most fluorspar is consumed domestically.

The future looks bright for China to continue its fluorite dominance. Reserves and production are set to expand as new large mines come online. The 12th Five Year Plan has also outlined support for further growth in domestic fluorspar output and processing capacity. China’s grip on the global fluorite market looks assured for decades to come.

While China may have the most fluorite mineral by a large margin, there are other countries with substantial reserves and production. Mexico is the world’s second largest producer at just over 16% of global output. South Africa, Mongolia, Russia and Spain are other leading producers of the valuable industrial mineral. But as it stands, China’s sheer scale of reserves and production cements its status as the undisputed king of the fluorite world.