Ilmenite from Miask, Ilmen Mts, Chelyabinsk Oblast', Southern Urals, Urals Region, Russia. 4.5 x 4.3 x 1.5 cm
Category Oxide mineral
Chemical formula iron titanium oxide, FeTiO3
Strunz classification 04.CB.05
Dana classification
Color Iron-black; gray with a brownish tint in reflected light
Crystal habit Granular to massive and lamellar exsolutions in hematite or magnetite
Crystal system Trigonal Rhombohedral 3
Twinning {0001} simple, {1011} lamellar
Cleavage absent; parting on {0001} and {1011}
Fracture Conchoidal to subconchoidal
Tenacity Brittle
Mohs scale hardness 5–6
Luster Metallic to submetallic
Streak Black
Diaphaneity Opaque
Specific gravity 4.70–4.79
Optical properties Uniaxial (–)
Birefringence Strong; O = pinkish brown, E = dark brown (bireflectance)
Other characteristics weakly magnetic
References [1][2]
Crystal structure of ilmenite

Ilmenite is a weakly magnetic titanium-iron oxide mineral which is iron-black or steel-gray. It is a crystalline iron titanium oxide (FeTiO3). It crystallizes in the trigonal system, and it has the same crystal structure as corundum and hematite.


Distinguishing features

Ilmenite is commonly recognised in altered igneous rocks by the presence of a white alteration product, the pseudo-mineral leucoxene. Often ilmenites are rimmed with leucoxene, which allows ilmenite to be distinguished from magnetite and other iron-titanium oxides. The example shown in the image at right is typical of leucoxene-rimmed ilmenite.

In reflected light it may be distinguished from magnetite by more pronounced reflection pleochroism and a brown-pink tinge.

Ilmenite is weakly magnetic, with a weak response to a hand magnet.

Mineral chemistry

Ilmenite from Froland, Aust-Agder, Norway; 4.1 x 4.1 x 3.8 cm

Ilmenite most often contains appreciable quantities of magnesium and manganese and the full chemical formula can be expressed as (Fe,Mg,Mn,Ti)O3. Ilmenite forms a solid solution with geikielite (MgTiO3) and pyrophanite (MnTiO3) which are magnesian and manganiferous end-members of the solid solution series.

Although there appears evidence of the complete range of mineral chemistries in the (Fe,Mg,Mn,Ti)O3 system naturally occurring on Earth, the vast bulk of ilmenites are restricted to close to the ideal FeTiO3 composition, with minor mole percentages of Mn and Mg. A key exception is in the ilmenites of kimberlites where the mineral usually contains major amounts of geikielite molecules, and in some highly differentiated felsic rocks ilmenites may contain significant amounts of pyrophanite molecules.

At higher temperatures it has been demonstrated there is a complete solid solution between ilmenite and hematite. There is a miscibility gap at lower temperatures, resulting in a coexistence of these two minerals in rocks but no solid solution. This coexistence may result in exsolution lamellae in cooled ilmenites with more iron in the system than can be homogeneously accommodated in the crystal lattice.

Altered ilmenite forms the mineral leucoxene, an important source of titanium in heavy mineral sands ore deposits. Leucoxene is a typical component of altered gabbro and diorite and is generally indicative of ilmenite in the unaltered rock.


Tellnes opencast ilmenite mine, Sokndal, Norway

Ilmenite is a common accessory mineral found in metamorphic and igneous rocks. It is found in large concentrations in layered intrusions where it forms as part of a cumulate layer within the silicate stratigraphy of the intrusion. Ilmenite generally occurs within the pyroxenitic portion of such intrusions (the 'pyroxene-in' level).

Magnesian ilmenite is indicative of kimberlitic paragenesis and forms part of the MARID association of minerals (mica-amphibole-rutile-ilmenite-diopside) assemblage of glimmerite xenoliths. Managaniferous ilmenite is found in granitic rocks and also in carbonatite intrusions where it may also contain anomalous niobium.

Many mafic igneous rocks contain grains of intergrown magnetite and ilmenite, formed by the oxidation of ulvospinel. Ilmenite also occurs as discrete grains, typically with some hematite in solid solution, and complete solid solution exists between the two minerals at temperatures above about 950°C.

Titanium was identified for the first time by William Gregor in 1791 in Ilmenite from the Manaccan valley.

Ilmenite is named after the locality of its discovery in the Il'menski Mountains, near Miass, Russia,


Ilmenite output in 2005

Most ilmenite is mined for titanium dioxide production. Finely ground titanium dioxide is a bright white powder widely used as a base pigment in paint, paper and plastics.

North America and Europe together consume about 50% of the world's titanium dioxide production. Demand by India and China is growing rapidly and may eventually surpass Western consumption.

World consumption rises approximately 5% to 8% per annum, with demand growth most strongly centred in Asian economies. World demand in 2004 was 335,000 tonnes of TiO2 units, representing about 2.4 million tonnes of ilmenite.

Ilmenite is converted into titanium dioxide via the sulfate process. Sulfate process plants must utilise low-vanadium ilmenite, as vanadium is a penalty element. Titanium dioxide pigment can also be produced from higher titanium feedstocks such as rutile and leucoxene via a chloride acid process.

Raw ilmenite is refined by decreasing the iron content. Carbon (anthracite) is used to convert some of the iron oxide in the ilmenite to metallic iron. The products of this process are molten iron (pig iron) and a slag rich in titanium. A related process is the Becher process.

Ilmenite sand is also used as a sandblasting agent in the cleaning of diecasting dies.


Estimated titanium ore production
in thousands of tons for 2005
according to U.S. Geological Survey[3]
Country Production
Australia 1,140
South Africa 952
Canada 809
China 400
Norway 380
United States 300
Ukraine 220
India 200
Brazil 130
Vietnam 100
Mozambique (750)
Madagascar (700)
Sénégal (150)
Other countries 120
Total world 4,800

Australia was the world's largest producer and exporter of ilmenite ore in 2005–2006, with 1.1 million tonnes, followed by South Africa (952Kt), Canada (809Kt), China (~400Kt) and Norway (380Kt).[4]

Development of large mineral sands operations in Sénégal, Côte d'Ivoire, Madagascar[5] and Mozambique will see extensive supplies of ilmenite, rutile, zircon and leucoxene reach world markets in coming years. This is reflected in the table at right in parentheses. This additional supply of ilmenite and titanium feedstock, approximating 1.5 million tonnes per annum, is in excess to world demand growth of 350Kt per annum.

Although most ilmenite is recovered from heavy mineral sands ore deposits, ilmenite can also be recovered from layered intrusive sources colloquially known as "hard rock titanium" ore sources.

Mining operations

The world's largest open cast ilmenite mine is the Tellnes mine located in Sokndal, Norway, and run by Titania AS (owned by Kronos Worldwide Inc.), a hard rock ilmenite mine, which produces most of Norway's 380,000t of ilmenite production. In Karhujupukka located in Kolari, northern Finland there is a magnetite-ilmenite ore at around 5 million tons. The ore contains about 6.2% titanium.

The Balla Balla magnetitite-iron-titanium-vanadium ore deposit, in the Pilbara of Western Australia, contains ~600 million tonnes of magnetite-ilmenite cumulate ore horizon grading 58% Fe, 14% TiO2 and 0.8% V2O5, one of the richest magnetite-ilmenite ore bodies in Australia. The ore deposit is scheduled to be mined in mid-2009, to produce in excess of 480,000t per annum of ilmenite product.

Major mineral sands operations include:

  • Richards Bay in South Africa.
  • Coburn, WIM 50, Douglas, Pooncarrie in Australia
  • Iluka Resources have other operations in Australia including Murray Basin, Eneabba and Capel.
  • The Kerala Minerals & Metals Ltd(KMML), Indian Rare Earths(IRE),VV Mineral in India.
  • QIT Madagascar Minerals, a Rio Tinto Group subsidiary, recently began production at a mineral sands operation in Madagascar expected to produce 750,000t per annum of ilmenite, potentially expanding to 2,000,000t per annum in future phases.

Lunar ilmenite

Ilmenite has been found in Moon rocks, and is typically highly enriched in magnesium similar to the kimberlitic association. In 2005[6] NASA used the Hubble Space Telescope to locate potentially ilmenite-rich locations. This mineral could be essential to an eventual Moon base, as ilmenite would provide a source of iron and titanium for the building of structures and essential oxygen extraction.


  1. ^ Webmineral data
  2. ^ Mineral Handbook
  3. ^ "U.S. Geological Survey" (PDF). Retrieved 2006-03-07. 
  4. ^ USGS
  5. ^ "Malagasy mine brings Aids threat". BBC. November 2, 2005. 
  6. ^ How to set up a moonbase. NASA

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  • ilmenite — [il′mən īt΄] n. [Ger ilmenit, after the Ilmen Mts. in the southern Urals + it, ITE1] a hard, dark brown or black, rhombohedral mineral, FeTiO3, an oxide of iron and titanium …   English World dictionary

  • Ilmenite — Illy Il ly, adv. [A word not fully approved, but sometimes used for the adverb ill.] [1913 Webster] Ilmenite Il men*ite, n. [So called from Ilmen, a branch of the Ural Mountains.] (Min.) Titanic iron. See {Menaccanite}. [1913 Webster] …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ilmenite — Menaccanite Me*nac can*ite, n. [From Menaccan, in Cornwall, where it was first found.] (Min.) An iron black or steel gray mineral, consisting chiefly of the oxides of iron and titanium. It is commonly massive, but occurs also in rhombohedral… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • ilmenite — /il meuh nuyt /, n. a very common black mineral, iron titanate, FeTiO3, occurring in crystals but more commonly massive. [1820 30; after the Ilmen Mountains (Russ Il ménskie góry) in the southern Urals, where it was first identified; see ITE1] *… …   Universalium

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  • ilmenite — noun Etymology: German Ilmenit, from Ilmen range, Ural Mts., Russia Date: circa 1827 a usually massive iron black mineral that consists of an oxide of iron and titanium and that is a major titanium ore …   New Collegiate Dictionary

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