Industrial Minerals

Industrial minerals are raw materials that are used directly in the industrial production or the construction industry. The following industrial minerals are defined as minerals free for mining, except for salt which is a state-owned mineral.

The current production data for Austria is published in the Austrian Mining Yearbook (PDF, 4 MB) (in German). International statistics on raw materials are released in English in the WORLD MINING DATA.

The name of graphite is inferred from the Greek word for writing, “graphein”, as the dark-coloured mineral is excellently suited and historically frequently used as writing material. Nowadays, the major part of the global graphite production is used to manufacture refractory products (for example crucibles) and special electrodes, which results in an increasing demand for high-quality graphite.

Since 1755, the “Kaisersberg mine” near St. Stephan ob Leoben in Styria has been active and now represents the last active graphite mine in the Alps. The graphite in Kaisersberg is produced in an underground mine.

The name of the industrial mineral “kaolin”, whose primary constituent is the clay mineral kaolinite, is derived from the Chinese village "Gaoling". Up to the 18th century, it used to be called “terra alba” or “Passau earth” in Europe. Kaolin has been mined in Austria for more than 200 years. Back then, under the name “Schwertberger Weißton” (Schwertberg white clay) kaolin has already been sold to stove builders and small ceramics companies in the area around Steyr and Linz. The white mineral was also used to whiten soldiers’ uniforms, reins and bridles. Between the years of 1960 and 1970, peak production volumes of up to 170,000 tonnes of raw kaolin were mined and then processed to kaolin, quartz sand as well as by-products.

Due to its physical properties (soft, plastic, white colour) kaolin is now used as a filler and carrier in paper, paints, rubber and plastics as well as in cosmetic and pharmaceutical products. Kaolin is also considered as an important raw material for the manufacture of sanitary ceramics, porcelain and glass fibre. In addition, kaolin is used in the food and fertiliser industry.

High-quality limestone with a proportion of more than 95% of  CaCO3 is free for mining and is primarily used as industrial raw material in the cement industry and as slagging agent in steel production. Of particular importance, however, is the manufacture of ground products from calcium carbonate which are used as high-quality fillers in the paper, plastics, cosmetics and paint industry and are traded word-wide.

At the end of the 19th century, Austria ranked first in the global production of refractory products based on the industrial mineral magnesite.

Magnesite is extracted in the Federal Provinces Styria, Carinthia and Tyrol, both in open pit mining and underground mining. Sintered magnesite, magnesite bricks, caustic magnesite and refractory mixes are produced from the raw material. Breitenau in Styria represents one of the world’s largest underground magnesite mines.

Magnesite takes its name from the alkaline earth metal magnesium, which is the main component of the mineral itself. It is indispensable as a protective inner layer for all high-temperature processes (above 1,200°C), for example for furnaces and glass tanks in the production of steel, non-ferrous metals, cement, and glass. For example, about ten kilogrammes of refractory products are required to produce a car and about 1 tonne to produce an airplane.

Micaceous iron is a scarce industrial mineral. It has been exploited in Waldenstein in the Carinthian Lavant Valley since Roman times. During the last century it has been produced from underground mines. The mine in Waldenstein one of the biggest producers of this rare industrial mineral. More than 95% of the amount extracted annually are exported to over 80 countries.

Due to its physical properties - in particular its platelet structure - micaceous iron ore provides the basis of high-quality anti-corrosion paint. For example, the Sydney Harbour Bridge, the Bosporus Bridge and also oil rigs are treated with products based on micaceous iron ore. Micaceous iron ore is also used in the ceramics and cosmetics industry.

Oil shales are shaly or calcareous sedimentary rocks with organic-rich components from which smouldering oil can be extracted by heating and subsequent condensation. In Austria, a small amount of oil shale has been produced from underground mines until 1964, since then open pit mining has taken place at an altitude of about 1,500 m above sea level in the area of the Tyrolean Achensee. The oil is processed into cosmetic and pharmaceutical products (e.g. ointments, bath oils, hair balm).

In Austria, the rights of prospecting, extraction and appropriation lie with the Salinen Austria AG. Currently about 4 million cubic metres of brine are extracted annually at the three operating sites of Salinen Austria AG (Bad Ischl, Hallstatt and Altaussee).

Major sales products are brines for commercial, industrial and thawing salt, for curing and healing purposes, table salt, chemically pure salt for pharmaceutical purposes and salt-lick stones for cattle.

Prehistoric finds prove that salt production in today’s Austria goes back to the Neolithic period. In Hallstatt, salt has been extracted continuously for 7000 years. The significance of salt mining in terms of culture and history, especially in the period from 800 to 400 B.C., is demonstrated in the naming of the “Hallstatt period”. As from the 12th century A.C., rock salt mining was gradually replaced by the leaching of brines from the rock dome of the “Haselgebirge”.  

The names of towns like Salzburg, Hall, Hallein, Hallstatt, Salzkammergut and Bad Hall stem from the occurrence of salt.

With a proportion of more than 80% SiO2, silica sand is one of the mineral resources that are “free for mining” according to the Austrian Mineral Resources Act (“Mineralrohstoffgesetz”, MinroG).

In Austria, silica sands occur in thick-layered deposits (“Linzer Sande” and “Melker Sande”) in tertiary basin settings south of the Bohemian Massif. Many small- and medium-sized companies exploit these sands in open pits. Main consumers of silica sands are the glass, ceramics, foundry, chemicals (water glass, silicon carbide) and the refractory industry.

Since 1856, the industrial minerals talc and leucophyllite, also referred to as “white clay”, are being extracted in both underground and open pit mines in Austria. The talc deposit of Rabenwald in Styria is the largest deposit of its kind in Central Europe.

Due to their typical physical properties, talc and leucophyllite are used as fillers in paper, in plastics and rubber products, in paints and varnishes, as carriers for insecticides, and as additives to ceramic bodies. The multifarious properties of talc are obvious in the fact that it used as a foam enhancer in soaps as well as in anti-corrosion protection.