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Exploring the versatility of boron

Interview with Ali Sapmaz, CEO of AB Etiproducts Oy

European Business: Mr. Sapmaz, Eti Maden IGM is the world’s leading boron minerals and chemicals producer. What is the role of AB Etiproducts Oy in the group?

Ali Sapmaz: I would like to start with a small introduction. Turkey possesses roughly two thirds of the world’s boron minerals reserves and is the largest exporter of these refined boron products and minerals. Our parent company, Eti Maden IGM, was established in 1935 in Turkey and it is the country’s biggest and oldest mining company. As the biggest national mining company in Turkey, Eti Maden IGM has been developing the country’s natural resources since its foundation. In 1982, Eti Maden (previously known as Etibank and Eti Holding) and the Finnish mining and multi-metal Outokumpu group established in Finland a joint-venture company, Ab Etiproducts Oy, for the marketing of Turkish origin boron products. Ab Etiproducts Oy was the first foreign entity established by Eti Maden abroad, and its role is the marketing and sales of boron products produced by Eti Maden. Ab Etiproducts Oy’s first activity area in 1982 was the Scandinavian market. Over time, the company expanded notably and, in 2018, its exclusivity sales area covers Scandinavian and Baltic countries, Germany, Poland, Ukraine, Moldova and all the African continent.

European Business: What are the current developments in the boron market?

Ali Sapmaz: The market for borates typically follows the GDP growth trend, and therefore the economic situation and investments, for instance, have a direct impact on our business. Looking into different sectors, continued market growth for boron products is driven by its largest usage sector, namely the glass industry, that we consider as the combined sectors of borosilicate glass, glass-wool insulation, and the fiberglass industry. A notable amount of boron products are also supplied to the agriculture sector, for use as a micronutrient. All in all, boron products are used in around 450 different industry applications. Therefore, we could say that the boron market is alive and continually moving. New usages are continuously being discovered for boron products due to their unique multi-functional beneficial characteristics. Innovation is a key word for us. We are a melting pot of innovation and this business approach will lead us into a promising future. Against this background, the whole Eti Maden group is continuously searching for new applications. In order to stay competitive in the long run we are closely cooperating with research institutions, such as universities and others.

European Business: What benefits can you offer to your customers as the exclusive sales agent and distributor of Eti Maden IGM’s boron products?

Ali Sapmaz: Our mission is based on six core pillars. These are: to continue to be the leading borate supplier in our sales region; to provide our customers with good services and high quality; to improve our competitiveness in our sales region and markets; to establish an efficient coordination basis between clients and producers; to enhance the motivation and skills of our employees through training and development; and to promote quality consciousness in our company in order to maintain high standards in all our fields of activities. Ab Etiproducts Oy head office is located in Helsinki, and from here we manage all international sales and distribution activities. Over the years, we have created a well-established distribution network. We have several warehouses located in Finland, Sweden, Latvia, Poland, Germany and South Africa. We operate with very strong logistics support and using all possible logistics options for deliveries to customers, such as cargo vessels, barges, railway wagons, trucks and silo trucks.

European Business: Can you name a few application areas for boron?

Ali Sapmaz: Yes, indeed there are so many of them that it is better if I only mention major applications. The largest usage sector for boron products is the glass industry which I defined earlier. Boron offers many crucial beneficial properties in these applications. Boron is a powerful flux and also confers high chemical resistance for glasses in general. As a flux, it works by reducing the melting point, viscosity, thermal expanding coefficient, and increasing breakage index, transparency and brightness, and heat resistance. As a practical example, thanks to these properties borosilicate glasses are used in many glass products like laboratory glasses, pharmaceuticals, cookware, solar energy systems, fluorescent tubes and lamp covers and automotive lighting assemblies. In metallurgy, borates have various application areas such as in the production of steel and nonferrous metals, alloys, and rare-earth magnets. Boron products are also highly important in controlling powdery, low density slag coming from steel production. Boron transforms the slag into compact form that is twice the density of powdery slag. This makes the slag easier to manage and more environmentally friendly to handle.

In agriculture, as mentioned earlier, boron is an essential micronutrient for the growth and development of healthy plants, for crop yielding and seed development. It is essential for maintaining balance between sugar and starch in addition to the translocation of sugar and carbohydrates in plants. Though plants’ boron requirements are very low in quantity, their growth and crop yields are severely affected when soil is boron deficient.

European Business: Where do you see the future of your company?

Ali Sapmaz: Our mission is to utilize the national boron resources within the framework of sustainable development. Our goal is to increase our market share and to reflect the global policy and the strong image of our parent company Eti Maden, as well as to continuously improve and develop our business model in line with this strategy. We see our ethical standards and values and a social responsibility for our activity based on four principles: continuous development, responsibility, respect and trust. I see a bright future for this company and we will continue to do our utmost to bring value to our esteemed customers and to continue our activity in an upwards direction.

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