Aussie firm to mine titanium sands in Puttalam | Sunday Observer

Aussie firm to mine titanium sands in Puttalam

Mineral deposits in Puttalam

Australia’s Iluka Resources has estimated that its Puttalam mineral sands deposit has 56 million tonnes of titanium-bearing heavy minerals, enough to support a mining operation with a life of over 20 years, its Country Manager in Sri Lanka, Robert M. Tyler said.

Robert M. Tyler 

Iluka currently holds six mineral exploration licenses in the Puttalam district of the North Western Province and has held preliminary discussions with several ministries and agencies, including the Board of Investment, on plans to develop the deposit.

“This engagement has been positive,” Tyler told the Business Observer. “However due to the early stage of the project, no formal agreements have yet been concluded.”

Iluka has identified a mineral resource of approximately 700 million tonnes of mineralised sands. “This is estimated to contain heavy minerals at a grade of 8 per cent, which equates to 56 million tonnes,” Tyler said. “The principal heavy minerals of interest are the titanium bearing minerals, ilmenite and rutile, with a third potential product being zircon,” Tyler said.

Production volumes have not yet been determined but scoping studies suggest the mineral resource will support a mining operation with a life in excess of 20 years, he said.

Tyler said Iluka’s decision on whether to export the three mineral products or further upgrade the ore into more refined products will be depend on the results of ongoing feasibility studies.

Asked about the prospects for having a minerals separation plant and a pigment plant, Tyler said, “Iluka’s mineral sands operations have historically included both on-site processing and subsequent physical separation (i.e. value addition of the concentrate) in-country, to produce the final products of ilmenite, rutile and zircon.”

Ilmenite and rutile products will end up in global pigment and potentially titanium metal markets, Tyler said.

“The zircon products could feed the ceramics, refractory and casting industries as well as various zirconium chemicals end markets.

The products produced by Iluka are currently supplied to more 250 customers across these industries in over 40 countries.”

Tyler said the size of Iluka’s investment in the project will also depend on the results of ongoing feasibility studies, which will consider factors such as production rates, mining methods and infrastructure requirements.

“Similar mineral sands projects undertaken elsewhere have typically resulted in the investment of hundreds of millions of dollars,” he said.

Asked about surface access rights and concessions such as tax breaks Iluka is seeking from the government, Tyler said Iluka is holding “early stage discussions with land owners regarding access rights and the government, to seek an investment agreement with terms and conditions appropriate for a project of this nature.”

Tyler said Iluka is committed to operating in a sustainable manner . “As such, Iluka will bring industry leading practices to the Sri Lankan minerals sector.”