A Peter Brigg discovers how talc from Luzenac's Trimouns in France find its way into food and agricultural products - from chewing gum to olive oil. High in the French Pyrenees, some 1,700m above sea level, lies Trimouns, a huge deposit of hydrated magnesium silicate - talc to you and me. Talc from Trimouns, and from ten other Luzenac mines across the globe, is used in the manufacture of a vast array of everyday products extending from paper, paint and plaster to cosmetics, plastics and car tyres. And of course there is always talc's best known end use: talcum powder for babies1 bottoms. But the true versatility of this remarkable mineral is nowhere better displayed than in its sometimes surprising use in certain niche markets in the food and agriculture industries.
B Take, for example, the chewing gum business. Every year, Talc de Luzenac France - which owns and operates the Trimouns mine and is a member of the international Luzenac Group （art of Rio Tinto minerals） supplies about 6,000 tones of talc to chewing gum manufacturers in Europe. "We've been selling to this sector of the market since the 1960s," says Laurent Fournier, sales manager in Luzenac's Specialties business unit in Toulouse. "Admittedly, in terms of our total annual sales of talc, the amount we supply to chewing gum manufacturers is relatively small, but we see it as a valuable niche market: one where customers place a premium on securing supplies from a reliable, high quality source. Because of this, long term allegiance to a proven suppler is very much a feature of this sector of die talc market." Switching sources - in the way that you might choose to buy, say, paperclips from Supplier A rather than from Supplier B - is not an easy option for chewing gum manufacturers." Fournier says. "The cost of reformulating is high, so when customers are using a talc grade that works, even if it's expensive, they are understandably reluctant to switch."