TZMI 18: Iluka predicts high-grade titanium, zircon feedstocks to remain in structural deficit

By Cameron Perks
Published: Thursday, 20 December 2018

Iluka Resources is looking into restarting its idled SR1 kiln, with high-grade chloride-titanium feedstock tight and the availability of zirconium feedstock sparse.

Mineral sand producer Iluka Resources has told the 2018 TZMI Congress that high-grade titanium feedstocks and zirconium feedstocks will remain tight into 2019.

The event in Singapore was hosted by independent consultant TZMI on November 12-14.

Subdued zircon demand in China was reported in early October this year, resulting from a slowdown in the Chinese economy, the weakening of the country’s yuan against the dollar and the continuing effects of strict environmental inspections.

But Iluka, which is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange, has played down reports of a serious or long-term problem in demand, saying that the recent easing will be "short lived." The company said that its fourth-quarter sales have not been affected.

The miner also told delegates that supplies of high-grade chloride titanium pigment would remain tight as a result of supply disruptions and deposit depletion.

In order to balance these markets, Iluka is investigating the restart of its currently idled SR1 synthetic rutile plan in the southwest of Western Australia, which has capacity for around 120,000 tonnes per year of synthetic rutile production.

Iluka noted that a continuous supply of high-quality chloride ilmenite from its Cataby mine may allow for expansion of this capacity. Cataby is also in Western Australia and its first production is expected in the second quarter of 2019, according to the company’s website.

The company is currently operating its SR2 kiln, which has a capacity of around 200,000 tpy of synthetic rutile.

It has also emphasized that a definitive feasibility study is underway at its Sembehun deposits in Sierra Leone, where a substantial volume of natural rutile exists.

For zircon, Iluka has emphasized the increasingly important role of the supply of zircon-in-concentrate (ZIC). It has provided guidance of around 335,000 tpy of zircon production from 2018 to 2021, which will include a substantial base-load component of ZIC.

Iluka has been using ZIC more readily in recent times due to the company’s ability to produce it at low cost by upgrading and blending current and stockpiled byproduct streams.

The company has also revealed that it is working on other projects to ensure longer-term supply security for its customers.

Iluka is making progress in unlocking large but fine-grained 'WIM’ deposits in Victoria, Australia, it said. Recent technological progress has allowed this project to move into the pre-feasibility stage, it added.

The company is also working on its Balranald deposit in New South Wales, Australia, with a commercial decision on further field trials to be made in the new year.