Like sand through the hourglass

THE mineral sands industry could lead the country out of its economic doldrum post COVID-19, Minerals Council of Australia CEO Tania Constable believes, by supplying the growing market with its abundant stocks of high-grade mineral sands resources.
Like sand through the hourglass Like sand through the hourglass Like sand through the hourglass Like sand through the hourglass Like sand through the hourglass

Thunderbird mineral sands project samples

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Mineral sands deposits contain titanium, rare earth elements and silica, which are essentially the building blocks of modern life.

According to a report by the MCA - Mineral Sands: From ancient oceans to modern technology - the mineral sands industry offers a big opportunity for economic growth and jobs in regional Australia post COVID-19.

The report says with demand for rutile, ilmenite and zircon growing as the world moves to a lower carbon economy, Australia can be a part of green technology supply chains.

With the world's largest mineral sands deposits and 32% of global ilmenite (titanium), 62% of rutile and 68% of global zircon resources, the country has 10 mines in operation in Western Australia, New South Wales, South Australia and Queensland.

In 2017 there were 1.6 million tonnes of rutile and ilmenite produced and 1.3Mt exported from the 10 mines; and 500,000t of zircon concentrate was produced from nine active mines and 970,000t exported.

While Victoria holds 39% of the country's zircon resources it has no operating mine, although four projects are under development.

Constable said many of the country's mineral sands deposits also contained monazite and xenotime, which were rare earth elements used in smart phones, televisions and computers, x-ray machines, medical lasers and fibre optics.

"As the world transitions to a lower carbon economy, demand for rare earth elements is growing because these minerals are also used in the production of hybrid cars, electric vehicles and wind turbines," she said.

"Advances in computing, manufacturing, energy and transport would be impossible without these raw materials."

Constable said the country's mineral sands industry was already a world leader in sustainability and mine site rehabilitation, with about 97% of the mined material progressively returned and the landform restored throughout the life of a mineral sands mine.

"In 2020 and beyond, the mineral sands industry offers significant opportunities for the economic growth and diversification of regional communities across Australia," she said.