U.S. Borax, part of Rio Tinto, is a global leader in the production, supply and science of borates—naturally occurring minerals containing boron and other elements. 1,000 people are serving that operation 500 customers with more than 1,700 delivery locations globally. They supply 30% of the world’s need for refined borates from their world-class mine in Boron, California, about 100 miles northeast of Los Angeles. U.S. Borax is one of a few Borates producers globally. The future is bright for Boron and Borates deposit owners given the emphasis on decarbonization and advanced energy.
In 1872, borate deposits were discovered in California’s Death Valley. Several companies sprung up in the region to mine borates. By 1890, they were mostly consolidated into the Pacific Coast Borax Company. In 1956, the Pacific Borax Company merged with the United States Potash Corporation to form U.S. Borax.
US Borax Product Portfolio
US Borax has more than 30 industrial, agriculture, and specialty products sold under the 20 Mule Team® Borax brand. It targets three areas where Boron can provide significant benefits in use and applications: Food Security – combatting global hunger by helping farmers to grow abundant, healthy crops; Protective Coatings and Barrier Technologies – Boron-enhanced compounds as coatings to enhance tensile strength of metals such as steel, to protect against bacteria and mould, to prevent fire hazard and other advanced solutions; Advanced Energy – innovative technologies to make energy safer, more efficient, and more affordable.
The company produces a variety of refined borates so that farmers and fertilizer manufacturers can achieve optimal results, whatever the application method. Refined Boron provides a clean, reliable source of boron, a micronutrient that plants and people need to thrive. It mixes uniformly with other materials and dissolves more completely in liquid and the soil.
The company is a market leader in producing more consistent quality and size, perfect for mixing in NPK fertilizer and enabling farmers to do more with less. Its refined borates are purer and cleaner than raw minerals, reducing contaminants such as arsenic, a heavy metal. Also, being crush-resistant and low-dust, it is cleaner and easier to handle and transport. As a natural biocide, borates help to control damaging insects, fungi, and bacteria—allowing us to make more efficient use of forest products in construction.
Besides high quality boron for Food Security, US Borax is known for its service quality supporting its products. Crop guides help to identify boron deficiency and provide detailed information about solutions and applications. An ROI calculator helps farmers determine the exact value they’ll see from using high-quality refined boron instead of cheaper but less effective alternatives. US Borax shares decades of expert knowledge and scientific studies with agronomists to support farmers and improve agricultural practices.
Protective Coatings and Barrier Technologies
US Borax has an extensive range of protective coatings and barrier technologies from ultra-high-strength steel in cars to fire retardants and wood protectants in homes, to borate-based cleaning products and the borosilicate glass on mobile devices.
Borates (boron compounds) can inhibit the growth of wood-damaging fungi and help to protect wood products against pests. That means wood treated with U.S. Borax products can be used in construction in areas that would otherwise be off-limits because of rot or termites. The fire-retardant capabilities of borates make them a perfect choice for housing and wiring insulation. Ultra-high strength steel, made with borates, is much harder than other metals and makes cars lighter and less vulnerable to corrosion.
Borates used in the production of ceramic frits help to create robust glazes and enamels, for longer-lasting tiles, roofs, silos, and appliances. Whether used in building construction or railway ties, the durability of U.S. Borax-treated wood can reduce repair and replacement expenses. Borates impart benefits during the manufacture of glass fiber insulation and contribute to the thermal insulation properties of the final product. Borate-containing insulation reduces heat loss in buildings—improving energy efficiency and lowering heating and cooling costs. Boron is also present in laundry detergents, household and industrial cleaners, and personal care products, thanks to their stain-removal and bacteria-control capabilities.
Sustainable Advanced Energy
The third area of focus for US Borax is in Advanced Energy solutions where Boron plays a role in making energy more efficient and greener. Boron provides energy solutions on oil fields, in nuclear plants, and in wind farms. It supplies boron for lithium-ion batteries, capacitors, and supercapacitors—enabling electric vehicles and road transportation.
In solar thermal heating applications, borosilicate glass helps to focus and capture solar energy. Textile fiberglass made with borates is important in the creation of wind turbines, and borates are a part of the high-power magnets that are used in turbine generator systems.
Borates also have the ability to capture thermal neutrons resulting from the fission reaction of uranium nuclear fuel; that ability makes them an essential ingredient in the control and safety of nuclear-pressurized water reactors. Elsewhere in nuclear power plants, boron carbide and borates are used for control rods, corrosion inhibition, and emergency shutdown systems.
Borates are used in ceramic tiles and are essential in insulation fiberglass to help improve energy efficiency and decrease heating and cooling costs.
With the surge in interest for Boron and Borate copmounds and its proven use in multiple applications which are green and environmental, US Borax is a company that will contribute to cleaning our planet. Its history and commitment to R&D should ensure we can take advantaeg of the multiple emerging soltuons and uses for curret and future generations.