The literature surveyed and the observations made in this report, have examined Australia's potential to supply the Asian market for a particular industrial mineral sodium bentonite.
The properties and uses of bentonite have been examined to determine which industrial markets the Australian sources of bentonite are most suited. The main source of bentonite in Australia is a sodium type bentonite suited for the Foundry industry without modification, and capable of being used in the Civil Engineering industry with polymer beneficiation.
A survey of the potential market segments in Asia suggests there is considerable markets in these industries. Japan offers the largest scope for exploiting foundry grades and the newly industrialised countries offer growth markets in Civil Engineering applications. The lack of a salt water tolerant product is the major reason for the inability for Australian producers to penetrate the other large market segment of Oil Drilling.
The position of Australian industrial mineral producers, in terms of economic advantages to compete in the Asian market was examined using both the traditional framework of comparative advantage as well as reference to the recent theories espoused by Michael Porter. It was concluded that, in resource intensive industries where factor advantages are paramount, comparative advantage was an appropriate tool to examine Australia's competitive position, and that industrial mineral suppliers including bentonite producers, should have the ability to compete in Asia. This analysis also concluded that this trade would mainly take the form of low value added bulk ores rather than downstream processed products.
The report also uses the company Australian Bentonite, as a case study of a company beginning to target the Asian bentonite market. The experience of this company fits well with the theoretical evaluation of the industry.