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Interview Home > Interview

Interview with Dr. Christoph Beyer, Managing Director of QMAG


“Dr. Christoph Beyer has been a Managing Director at QMAG since April 2020 after relocating to Australia from Melle Germany where he had undertaken a senior leading role as Managing Director with Refratechnik Ceramics GmbH, another company within Refratechnik Group.

During his time at ThyssenKrupp, Christoph gained valuable knowledge and experience in mineral processing and high-temperature technology. These internationally acquired skills are of great benefit to QMAG in the area of producing and supplying magnesia products according to customer’s needs.”

Refwin: Dear Dr. Christoph Beyer, would you please tell us about the new changes that have been introduced to QMAG after the acquisition by Refratechnik?

Dr. Christoph Beyer: The acquisition of QMag by the Refratechnik Group only resulted in minor changes within the organizational structure, the product portfolio and the business model. Small changes have been made to match the German Holding’s interfaces internally. Externally, only the support in Europe has changed, all other customers have the same points of contact and can expect the same dedication of the Qmag team and the same product quality after the change in ownership.

However, Refratechnik’s purpose statement “Expect the best” is already having an important influence on how we are developing our business and our products. Our R&D strategy is focused on increasing our customers’ value from our products in all four main product categories Electrofused Magnesia (EFM), Dead Burned Magnesia (DBM), Caustic Calcined Magnesia (CCM) and High Grade CCM. As an example, we are currently developing enhanced production processes to increase High Grade CCM product properties for an improved metal-yield in hydrometallurgical applications.

Refwin: What are the reasons that pushed Refratechnik to acquire QMAG, and what will be the role of QMAG in Refratechnik’s group?

Dr. Christoph Beyer: In a global raw material environment that is becoming more and more complex and uncertain, Refratechnik is now relying on complementary internal sources for refractory raw materials. Furthermore, Refratechnik has developed a path forward in the Industrial Minerals market with Baymag and Qmag as two strong players in the high-quality Magnesia market. 

Qmag is supplying EFM and DBM to sister companies within the Refratechnik Group of companies, ensuring the future reliability and growth of the refractory product portfolio of Refratechnik. The combination of unique raw material properties of the Qmag-products and the sophisticated production processes and dedication to quality within the Refratechnik Group is the basis for finished goods properties that are outstanding in the market. Our customers appreciate the durability and reliability of our refractory products which is adding value to their production processes in terms of sustainability and profitability.

Refwin: What is the future development strategy of QMAG as an independent business part?

Dr. Christoph Beyer: Qmag in Parkhurst has a capacity of up to 300,000 tons of magnesia products per year. We are experiencing an increasing demand from customers on a global basis across all sectors of our portfolio. Refractory raw materials, hydrometallurgical CCM and agricultural grade CCM are currently shipped to all continents with a strong emphasis on the Asian-Oceanian market. We are predicting a steep increase for high-grade CCM and an increased demand for high-quality DBM and EFM as more customers are placing higher value on reliable sourcing. “The need to feed” and a growing population in Asia and Oceania creates a higher demand in high-quality lower grade CCM for agricultural applications. Furthermore, we are experiencing a higher number of inquiries around industrial applications, specifically for MHL?-production and other environmental-related applications.

Over the next years, we will be making full use of our strategically preferred location and our overall capacity with an optimized production and sales strategy.      

Refwin: How do you comment the current and future global magnesia market both from supply and consumption sides?  

Dr. Christoph Beyer: As already mentioned, there is a growing need for high and highest quality MgO products from reliable sources with consistent quality. The overall consumption is increasing while the number of high quality sources is decreasing. At the same time, customers in the refractory industry are more sustainability conscious and require products that have a longer lifetime, yielding more specific productivity from existing production facilities. Whilst end customer efficiency improvements will continue, the overall consumption of refractory raw materials like DBM and EFM as well as the hydrometallurgical and agricultural/industrial CCM-grades will increase over the coming years going along with a growing population and a higher demand in the emerging countries.

Shipping issues will continue to influence the global supply and demand situation, with customers trying to meet their demands with more localized solutions and supply chains which are less likely to be effected by global logistical issues.

It will be interesting to see in how far the predictions of analysts concerning the future demand of battery-grade Nickel and Copper and the consequential need for hydrometallurgical-grade CCM will come true.  

Refwin: How do you see the Chinese magnesia market development in coming 5 years, and the changes that Chinese market probably bring to global supply structure?

Dr. Christoph Beyer: China always has been, and will continue to be, an attractive source for DBM, EFM and CCM, supplying more than two thirds of the global demand. The availability and pricing of Chinese MgO will continue to have a strong impact on the global magnesia market. However, taking into account the past and recent market fluctuations as well as the current availability and pricing out of China, an increasing number of customers are switching to or will be aiming for a dual or multi-supplier strategy to secure their raw material needs for the future. From a sustainability point of view we are delighted to see more customers being influenced in their decisions by either the overall footprint of a raw material and or the reliability of the source in the long term. We are expecting China to keep being the dominant supplier in the world market with a relevant counterweight of non-Chinese suppliers that specifically serve high-grade and high-quality segments as well as local markets.

Refwin: Facing the competition with Chinese suppliers, what are QMAG’s strengths?

Dr. Christoph Beyer: Qmag currently celebrates its 30th anniversary as a globally recognized magnesia supplier, which gives us an advantage over many newer magnesia producers. Customers who are utilizing our DBM and EFM raw materials in their refractory products usually experience a longer lifetime within their customer’s applications compared to finished refractory products made by using conventional sources like Chinese suppliers. The reason for that lies in the specific chemical and physical properties of our fused and dead burned products which again are a result of our unique and cryptocrystalline deposit and the specific way we process our raw materials in our plants in Kunwarara and Parkhurst. Having a cryptocrystalline deposit as a source for the feed material can be a significant advantage over the most Chinese suppliers that have to beneficiate, flotate, calcine and sinter or fuse a macrocrystalline ore. 

Furthermore, we are in the favorable position to have a very dedicated, experienced and loyal workforce as well as specialists that have a vast knowledge in the field of refractory applications based on our different product types and grades. That aspect, combined with the reliability and our excellent customer service is a good basis for a competitive position in the market.

Refwin: For magnesia and MgO based materials, what will be the new competition point in the future?

Dr. Christoph Beyer: It is always difficult to predict the future, but I do not see any significant movements in either the production or applications of magnesia occurring in the short term. Global consolidation may continue as seems to be the trend in many industries as customers pursue continuity of supply strategies. Whilst China is likely to continue to dominate MgO supply, other sources could become available in the global market that are currently only used within local markets. Qmag sees the drive to use cleaner technologies increasing and therefore companies who reduce their emissions footprint could have an influence in the longer term.
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