Year in Review 2013: TiO2 feedstocks

By Siobhan Lismore-Scott
Published: Friday, 20 December 2013

2013 saw a consolidation in the industry; Prices softening impacted projects

January

The Indian holding company Saraf Agencies Pvt Ltd unveiled an Indian Rupee (Rs) 5bn ($91.3m) investment plan to revive its interest in constructing a titanium dioxide (TiO2) plant and development park at Chhatrapur in south Odisha, India.

MZI Resources Ltd completed mining at its Lethbridge South mine in the Tiwi Islands, Australia.

TNG Ltd signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with an unnamed Austrian/German international engineering company regarding commercial development of TNG’s TiO2 and vanadium pentoxide extraction process (TIVAN).

February

Rio Tinto’s Fer et Titane (Iron and Titanium) division halted its TiO2 feedstock expansion programme on the back of weaker market conditions. It also placed its South African Richard Bay Minerals zircon and rutile processing operations on care and maintenance, and took its Quebec chloride slag production facility offline.

Latin Resources more than trebled its JORC inferred resource estimate to 1.465bn tonnes grading 5.7% heavy mineral content (HM) at its Guadalupito iron and mineral sands project in Peru.

US-based Rockwood Holdings Inc. signed an agreement with Finnish Kemira Oyj to purchase the company’s 39% stake in its sulphate TiO2 pigment joint venture, Sachtleben, for Û97.5m ($130m).

Iluka Resources Ltd said it would take a number of measures to insulate itself from market weakness including cutting its production to 30-40% of total capacity for 2013, idling its Eneabba mine, Western Australia, and making approximately 200 workers redundant.

MZI Resources revised its first production estimate at its Keysbrook TiO2 feedstocks project, Western Australia, from late 2013 to Q1 2014. It increased the size of the indicated and inferred resources at Keysbrook by 60%.

March

The Norwegian Ministry of the Environment told Nordic Mining ASA that the information it has given to the Ministry about the Engeb¿ rutile project is insufficient to resolve the industrial area plan and the application for waste disposal.

TNG Ltd updated the JORC resource for its Mount Peake project, northern Australia, to move a large portion of the 160m-tonne resource into the measured category.

Sierra Rutile was granted approval from the Sierra Leone Ministry of Mineral Resources for two exploration licences adjacent to its current mining licence in Area 1.

Scientists at Nanyang Technological University, Singapore, developed a TiO2 nanofibre that can both purify wastewater and liberate hydrogen, which can then be used as a fuel.

World Titanium Resources Ltd (WTR) entered into a MoU with Chinese TiO2 pigment producer, Sichuan Lomon Titanium, for eventual joint development of the Ranobe mine in Madagascar.

April

Cove Resources Ltd received final approval for a $5m working capital fund from RMB Resources to finance the bankable feasibility study of Cove’s Finnish ilmenite deposit, Koivu.

Argex Titanium signed a MoU to secure the location for its industrial sized plant in Salaberry-de-Valleyfield, 40km south-west of Montreal, Quebec.

Image Resources NL confirmed a JORC indicated and inferred resource of 2.1m tonnes grading 15.4% heavy mineral content (HMC) for Block A of the Boonanarring deposit in Western Australia.

Sri Lanka’s trade ministry approached the Chinese government for investment in its mining and mineral processing sectors, with particular emphasis on mineral sands and graphite.

Deutsche Bank released a note saying that world number one TiO2 pigment producer DuPont “should and likely will” look to divest its TiO2 business as soon as next year.

MZI Resources signed a leucoxene supply agreement with DuPont for 30% of the output of the Keysbrook mine.

Clariant International Ltd said it would build a new pigment preparations plant at Tangerang site in Indonesia that will double Clariant’s pigment preparations capacity in the country.

White Mountain Titanium Corp. located a new rutile prospect named La Marina near to its main project Cerro Blanco, in northern Chile.

May

The UK Court of Appeal ruled in favour of UK-based Pathfinder Minerals in the long-running dispute over the validity of its claims to certain mineral sand tenements in Mozambique.

Kronos Worldwide Inc. was downgraded by Fitch ratings.

June

Crimea TITAN, part of Ukrainian conglomerate Group DF, signed a contract with Zeppelin GmbH for the supply of $14.3m worth of Caterpillar quarry equipment for use in ilmenite and rutile mining.

Kronos Worldwide Inc., declared a lockout of the majority of the workers at its plant in Varennes, Canada. The lockout was part of a labour dispute and was triggered when 93% of workers rejected the latest contract offer made by the company’s management.

Indian chloride-route TiO2 producer Kerala Minerals and Metals Ltd said it would increase its production to 60,000 tpa from the current level of 40,000 tpa.

Australia Minerals and Mining Group Ltd (AMMG) confirmed a JORC inferred resource of 701m tonnes grading 3.8% HM at the Rover Range area of the Glenarty Creek mineral sands deposit, part of the Perth Basin in Western Australia.

Argex Titanium Inc. entered into a long-term offtake agreement with global paint producer PPG Industries Inc.

July

Resource Capital Fund’s (RCF) number VI fund bought a 12% stake in MZI Resources through a $3m share placement at Australian dollar (A$) 0.01296/share ($0.01188).

Resource Management & Mining (RMM) Capital Ltd-owned Goondicum ilmenite mine in Queensland, Australia, shut down production.

TNG Ltd undertook a share purchase plan for up to A$15,000 ordinary shares at an issue price of A$0.045 per share. As well as this, the parent company of the group undertaking the definitive feasibility study on TNG’s Mount Peake project, Allmine Group Ltd, was placed into voluntary liquidation.

Diatreme Resources Ltd sold 6% of its equity to Hong Kong-based Perpetual Mining Holding Ltd - whose shareholders already hold 19.8% of the company - for $2m to help with the development of its Cyclone zircon project, Western Australia.

Image Resources said it could produce up to 89,000 tpa ilmenite, 5,400 tpa leucoxene, 9,000 tpa rutile and 32,400 tpa zircon over 10 years from its Atlas and Boonanarring deposits in the Perth Basin, Western Australia.

DuPont said it would divest its TiO2 business. Later in July it agreed to settle an antitrust class action lawsuit out of court, where the company and the four other major TiO2 pigment producers had been accused of price fixing between 2002 and 2010.

August

Sheffield Resources Ltd confirmed high-grade zircon and ilmenite products from its Thunderbird deposit, which is part of its Dampier project, in the Canning basin, Western Australia.

Astron Ltd’s definitive feasibility study said it could produce 106,000 tpa of primary zircon and 14,000 tpa of secondary zircon from its Donald project in Western Australia.

Sichuan Lomon abruptly withdrew from its agreement to develop WTR’s Toliara ilmenite mine in Madagascar, citing WTR’s “recent capital raise and management change” as the principle reason.

Sangyo Kaisha Ltd (ISK) closed its Singapore plant to help reduce business costs.

Iluka Resources Ltd agreed to acquire the issued capital of Sri Lankan PKD Resources and its associated mineral sands tenements.

September

Mineral sand miners took to the streets to protest against a ban into beach sand mining in south Tamil Nadu, India. The ban came into play after it was revealed that miners were exploring in 30 hectares of beach, instead of four.

Clariant acquired the organic pigment business of Jiangsu Multicolor Fine Chemical Co. Ltd (JMC) based in Jiangsu Province, China. As part of this project, Clariant said it would also build a world scale pigment PV23 plant in Zhenjiang, Jiangsu, thus expanding its reach into Asian markets.

Rockwood sold its entire TiO2 pigments business to Huntsman Corp, for $1.1bn.

October

Base Resources started ore processing through the mining unit and wet concentrator at its Kwale deposit in Kenya.

MZI Resources received a $41.5m funding package for its Keysbrook minerals sands project from Resource Capital Fund.

Iluka Resources acquired all shares in a Sri Lankan mineral sand mining company, PKD Resources, for $5m.The deposit, in Puttalam, formed the largest heavy mineral (HM) resource in Iluka’s inventory.Ê

November

AkzoNobel acquired a 50% stake and management control of Sadolin Paints Oman SAOC.

PPG Industries relocated its regional office for automotive refinish operations in Southwest China to the Chengdu Economic and Technological Development Zone.

Huntsman Corp. was upgraded to ‘Buy’ status by analysts at Goldman Sachs, despite the fact that analysts admitted the TiO2 market had “bottomed”.

Metallica Minerals discovered zircon-rich heavy mineral sand (HMS) mineralisation 160 km north of its Urquhart Point zircon-rutile project in Queensland.

Reed Resources said in its annual report that it would produce a definitive feasibility study for its Barrambie resource in Australia by 2015.

Savannah Resources completed its first drilling programme at the company’s 80% owned Jangamo heavy mineral sands project in southern Mozambique.

Sierra Rutile confirmed in a regulatory filing that it was in takeover talks with interested parties. It also announced that it has entered into a 50,000 tonne rutile sales contract with an unnamed “major pigment producer”.

US chemical manufacturer Southern Ionics said that it would bring zircon mines online in Georgia, US, in order to support its growing zirconium oxychloride (ZOC) business.

Long term TiO2 fundamentals are strong, even if the market is facing challenging conditions,ÊJames McCullough, manager for industry analysis at Rio Tinto said.

An appeal was filed against Tronox’s Water Permit at its KZN Sands Fairbreeze mine in South Africa, stalling work.

Kenmare Resources said that its Moma ilmenite project in Mozambique returned to full production after a fire partially destroyed its wet concentrator plant A.

Sibelco was given the all-clear by the Queensland Government to mine on North Stradbroke Island until 2035, after a lengthy process to appeal the North Stradbroke Island Protection and Sustainability Act, which was passed by the previous administration.

December

Trimex Sands Pvt. Ltd said it would invest Indian rupee (Rs) 150 crore ($245,565) on expanding its facilities. The company intends to increase its production to about 450,000 tpa.

Sierra Rutile Ltd signed a MoU with Smol Pawa Sierra Leone Ltd. with the objective of being a cornerstone purchaser in respect to its Moyamba hydro project.

Metallica Minerals upgraded its indicated resource at its Urquhart Point HM sand project, in accordance to the JORC Code 2012.

Latin Resources sold 70% of its Ilo Norte project, to fund further exploration of its mineral sand project Guadalupito in Peru.