Zircon is a widespread mineral because it spreads throughout the Earth’s surface. The mineral is unnoticeable because of its particle size; however, it massively occurred in metamorphic and igneous rock formations.
Zircon mineral is mined in various parts of the world. According to Geology.com, ten countries were significant producers of zircon in 2014. These include Australia, China, South Africa, Indonesia, India, Mozambique, Ukraine, Madagascar, Sri Lanka, and Brazil. Zircon in these countries is in sub-millimeter-sized grains due to the granitic rocks weathering.
Localities in Sri Lanka, Myanmar, Vietnam, and Cambodia have produced gemstone-grade zircon for hundreds of years. The most recent deposits include Australia, Madagascar, and Nigeria. These countries’ localities are known to have crystal-sized zircon with high clarity; hence, they mine zircon as gemstones.
Zircon has been used for over two centuries, and its early mining was mainly for jewelry. Thanks to the modern era’s tech advances, the mineral is now having a vast array of uses, such as follows:
Zircon is in high demand in the ceramics industry. Around 54% of the world’s finely ground zircon is used to manufacture ceramic glazes, bodies, frits, and enamels. Meanwhile, approximately 85% of the mineral is used to produce tile ceramics.
Zircon is a mineral with a high melting point; therefore, it’s popular in the foundry industry. Because of its characteristics, zircon is ideal for investment casting, sand casting, and die casting operations. It is also used in the production of refractory washes and paints to lessen other foundry sands’ wettability.
Zircon’s high melting point and hardness make it valuable for the steel industry. The mineral is rich in hafnium and zirconium metals. The latter manufactures pipelines for specialty alloys, heat exchangers, harsh chemicals, and even nuclear reactor cladding. Meanwhile, the former is used in superalloys and nuclear control bars.