China consumes the most chromium out of any nation on Earth. But which countries produce the most chromium? South Africa takes the lead by a long shot.
Chromium is a hard, brittle gray metal with both a high melting point and corrosion resistance.
Those characteristics make it a key element in stainless steel production. In fact, chromium producers sell about 60 percent of their output to the steel industry.
The steel industry consumes chromium somewhat indirectly in that stainless steel production requires ferrochrome, an alloy of chromium and iron that contains 50 to 70 percent chromium by weight. Essentially, chromium is used to produce ferrochrome, which is then used to make steel.
China is the world’s top chromium consumer, as well as the top stainless steel producer. However, the nation has no chromium production of its own. China also has limited choices in regards to chromium imports — the US Geological Survey’s most recent report on chromium shows only five countries produced the metal in 2021.
South Africa is home to the vast majority of the world’s chromite deposits and is the largest ferrochrome and chromite ore producer. Many countries depend on South Africa for chromium imports.
Here’s a brief overview of last year’s five top chromium-producing countries. All in all, global chromium production rose year-on-year in 2021, reaching a total of 41 million metric tons (MT).
1. South Africa
Mine production: 18 million MT
South Africa produced 18 million MT of chromium in 2021. The country's output rose significantly over 2020's 13,200 million MT, and it continues to beat out the rest of the world’s chromium producers by a wide margin.
Chromium production requires a lot of energy, which can be a problem in South Africa as electrical power supply is sometimes constrained in the country. “Ore production was estimated to increase in 2021 owing to recovery of the market following the COVID-19 pandemic,” explains the US Geological Survey.
Mine production: 7 million MT
Last year, Kazakhstan produced 7 million MT of chromium, which is consistent with its 2020 output. One major chromium operation in the country is the Vokshod mine and plant, owned by Yildirim Group.
Diversified miner Eurasian Resources Group is also a big presence in Kazakhstan’s chromium space. The company’s ferroalloys division includes Kazchrome, which in turn is made up of four operating divisions: the Donskoy ore-mining and processing plant, the Aktobe ferroalloys plant, the Aksu ferroalloys plant and the Kazmarganets mining enterprise.
Mine production: 7 million MT
Top chromium-producing country Turkey saw its production of the metal fall in 2020, reaching 8 million MT compared to 10 million MT in 2019. It fell further in 2021, dropping to 7 million MT.
Yildirim Group is a major player in the Turkish chromium industry through Eti Krom, which it acquired in 2004. Eti Krom is the world’s biggest hard lumpy marketable chrome ore producer, and is the only chrome ore supplier in Turkey that can extract chromium throughout the entire year. Yildirim Group states that Eti Krom is the only high-carbon ferrochrome producer in Turkey.
Mine production: 3 million MT
India’s chromium production came in at 3 million MT in 2021, up slightly from 2.5 million MT in 2020. Little information is available on the Indian chromium space. In a past mineral commodity summary for chromium, the US Geological Survey states that chromium ferroalloys are produced at plants in the states of Andhra Pradesh, Chhattisgarh, Gujarat, Odisha and West Bengal.
Mine production: 2.3 million MT
Finland first made it onto the list of top chromium-producing countries in 2018 with output of 2.2 million MT. In 2021, the Nordic country produced 2.3 million MT.
Finland’s major chromium-producing operation is the Kemi mine, owned by global stainless steel manufacturer Outokumpu (FWB:OUTA). “Much like Kazakhstan and India, Finland’s chromite output has been integrated with domestic ferrochrome production,” explains a report by Roskill. “This stands in contrast to South Africa, where the majority of chromite supply is now consumed by China.”
However, Finnish chromium production is still making its way to China and even India, accounting for 20 to 25 percent of Outokumpu’s ferrochrome output.
Don’t forget to follow us @INN_Resource for real-time news updates!
Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Pistilli, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.
- Chromium: An Essential Metal | INN ›
- How to Invest in Chromium | INN ›
- Stripping Ratios: What are They and Why are They Important? ›
- Top Rare Earth Reserves by Country | INN ›