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Chinese companies are among potential buyers Lowell said he is talking with. The nation’s manufacturing and construction industries are driving demand for ore that produces the white pigment found in paint, paper, plastic and even toothpaste as well as light-weight aerospace materials. Boeing Co.’s new 787 Dreamliner, which is slated to enter service this year, and the construction of industrial plants such as water-desalination facilities, also boost demand for the metal.

The mineral “has a high strength-to-weight ratio,” Lowell said. “If you could reduce the price sufficiently, you could build all commercial airliner bodies out of it and save fuel costs on long flights. The same goes for automobiles.” His company, CIC Resources, is based in Vancouver.

While the material is abundant in the earth’s crust, the 2008 financial crisis delayed new ore production, says Gary McMahill, a senior consultant at DuPont Titanium Technologies, the world’s largest manufacturer of titanium dioxide pigment. It is a unit of DuPont Co. in Wilmington, Delaware.

“Now what we’re seeing is a tightening of supply,” McMahill said in an interview.

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