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Bureau of Mines / Minerals yearbook: Metals, minerals, and fuels 1972
Year 1972, Volume 1 (1972)

Wang, K. P.
Boron,   pp. 217-221 ff. PDF (472.6 KB)


Page 218

218 
MINERALS YEARBOOK, 1972 
McGee announced plans -to build a $100 million soda ash plant along with
additional borate refining facilities. 
 In 1972, Tenneco Oil Co. produced far less colemanite -than it had origin-ally
planned from its deposit in the Furnace Creek district of Inyo County, Calif.,
and its nearby processing plant in Nevada. Tenneco had designed the facilities
to produce 150,000 short tons of raw colemani-te, or roughly 70,000 short
tons of calcined colemanite, per year, but actually turned ou-t 
only a fraction of this, because of difficulties in calcining. The 48% B203
grade calcined colemanite was shipped primarily to Owens-Corning Fiberglas
Corp.'s plants in Anderson, S.C., and Burkette, Ten-n. 
 Although Occidental Petroleum Corp. through its subsidiary Hooker Chemical
Corp. was scheduled to become the third borate-producing company on the shores
of Searles Lake before yearend 1972, a proposed plant never took shape because
of excessive quantities of brines needed. 
CONSUMPTION AND USES 
 U.S. consumption of boron materials is difficult to estimate because of
the wide ran-ge of products and the large tonnages of exports in -the form
of both crude and finished borates. Although U.S. Borax is an interna-tional
company with farfiung worldwide interests, it does not disclose details on
shipments to -foreign countries. KerrMcGee also exports considerable quantities
of borates. Water-borne freigh-t charges from Wilmington, Calif., -to Europe
are less than those to the east coast United States, because high-cost U.S.
bottoms must be used in domestic runs and special low rates are possible
on European runs. U.S. Borax's 20,000- to 30,000-deadweight-ton ships carrying
borates to Europe often come back with Volkswagens tha-t pay for a large
part of the freight charge. 
 Generally spea-king, about one-half of the U.S. output of boron minerals
and compounds was consumed at home, and the other one-half was exported.
Official U.S. trade statistics do not list crude borates as a separate ca-tegory
and imply that none is exported. Actually, shipments of unfinished products
to -foreign countries were larger than -those of fully refined products.
 An estimated 40% -to 45% of the boron compounds consumed were used in manufacturing
various kinds of glasses within the United States. Boron materials account
for 5% to 10% of many special glasses by weight and 50% to 75% by value.
About 15% of all boron consumed went into insulating fiber glass, 10% into
textile fiber glass, and 15% to 20% into all other glasses. The manufacture
of enamels, fits, and glazes for protective and decora-tive coatings on sinks,
stoves, refrigerators, and many other household and industrial ap 
pliances accounted for another 10% of the boron consumption. 
 Approximately 15% of the boron compounds consumed in the United States,
(about one-third in the form of sodium perborate detergents), wen-t into
soaps and cleansers during 1972. Herein lies one major difference in U.S.
and European consumption pat-terns. In Europe, sodium perborate detergents,
used primarily in high-temperature washing, account for more than one-quarter
of the boron consumed whereas in the United States, consumption for cleansers
is h-igher. Borax and boric acid are used in the cleansing field because
of their bactericidal characteristics, easy solubili-ty in water, -and excellent
water-softening properties. They also go into toothpaste, mouthwash, and
eyewash. 
 Borax added to fertilizers to supply boron as an essential plan-t nutrient
accounted for about 5% of the U.S. boron demand. Another 2% to 3% went into
the making of herbicides. Substituting colemanite for fluorite in steelmaking
did not progress beyond the pilot plant stage. 
 About one--fourth of the boron consumed in the Uni-ted States went in-to
many miscellaneous uses. Minor amounts of boron compounds were used as fluxing
materials in welding, soldering, and metal refining. Some elemental boron
was used as a deoxidizer in nonferrous metallurgy, as a grain refiner in
aluminum, as a thermal neutron absorber in atomic reactors, *in delayed action
fuses, as an ignitor in radio tubes, and as a coating material in solar batteries.
Use of boron compounds in abrasives gained ground, particularly cubic boron
nitride produced by synthetic diamond producers. Use of boric acid as a catalyst
in 


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