The non-metallic minerals sector is all around us

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Do you know what products go into the non-metallic minerals manufacturing sector?

We often discuss differences in sector performance within manufacturing and the factors that play into why different sectors are performing differently. Sometimes, the sub-sector names don’t really mean much. One such sector is non-metallic minerals.

Manufacturing activities related to a single substance of mineral origin

Still not that clear is it?

But these items are all around us, and important in our day-to-day lives.
  • Nearly two fifths of the sector is made up of concrete, cement and plaster products. These are mainly for use in construction, so tiles, flagstones, bricks, plasterboard, pipes to give a few examples.
  • Just over a quarter of the sector is the manufacture of glass in all its forms – from drinking glasses to glassware used in laboratories, from glass in our spectacles to flat glass for windows (whether in buildings or vehicles).
  • A tenth of the sector is the manufacture of abrasive products and other non-metallic mineral products – this includes manufacture of carbon and graphite fibres and their related products and abrasive products such as sandpaper.
  • Clay building materials are also included: bricks, roofing tiles, floor tiles, chimney pots, and pipes made from clay (rather than concrete or plaster).
  • Porcelain and ceramic products – lots of familiar products in this part of the sector: table wear, sinks, loos, baths.
  • There are also other products such as ready-mix cements and mortars that would be used both by households and on commercial large-scale construction projects.

What affects the sector?

The sector requires inputs of quarried materials such as clay and aggregates (e.g. gravel, sand, limestone). All of this type of manufacturing is energy intensive – nearly all require heat to transform from raw materials into products. For example, brick making can require baking temperatures of 900-1200°C.

With 60% of the sector output going into the construction sector, it is heavily reliant on the overall health of construction, public sector investment into major projects and developments and also consumer confidence and spending which will affect repair, maintenance and upgrades to housing.




Many products in this sector are heavy and with a relatively low selling price so transport costs are determinant for trade – around 9% of the sector’s output is exported. Products that are travel well to overseas markets include articles made from graphite or carbon, heat and sound insulation products, and items such as brake mountings.

How’s it doing?

In our last Manufacturing Outlook report, construction supply chain sectors are to be found somewhere in the middle between slump and strong growth; healthy growth is expected in 2016, albeit with some downside risks.

In particular, there are growing concerns about energy prices and risks of Chinese dumping of construction products, in a similar manner to the steel sector, with low shipping prices likely to support low-priced imports. There are also downside risks that some major construction investment decisions could be delayed this year, as we await the outcome of the EU referendum.

Find out if this outlook has changed in our Q2 Manufacturing Outlook report when it's published on 6 June.


Senior Policy Researcher

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