Due Diligence Review of a Mineral Sands project in Victoria, Australia

The client, based in Melbourne, Australia, commissioned SRK to review the mineral sands project following the previously prepared final “Definitive Feasibility Study” and available engineering studies, to then prepare a technical report, and to present our opinion and findings. The company develops and mines mineral sands deposits and produces a range of zirconium and titanium based products from mining interests in Australia and Africa. In China, the company finishes, sells and markets zirconium and titanium products; abroad, the client is a world leader in advanced zirconia materials for the refractory and ceramic industries.

In our scope of work, SRK reviewed the prepared mineral resource and ore reserve estimates; assessed mine planning and the proposed mining; technically reviewed the ore concentration and separation processes; and reviewed the project infrastructure in Australia; the project’s environmental, legal, and social aspects; and the project costs and financial model.

The mineral sands deposit is located northwest of Melbourne. The total Measured and Indicated Mineral Resource of the Australia deposit is estimated to exceed 800 Million tonnes (Mt) based on a cut-off grade of 1.0% heavy minerals. Proved and Probable Ore Reserves of about 460 Mt are presently estimated for mining zircon, rutile, leucoxene and ilmenite.

The open pit mine, operated by shovels and trucks, follows a model identifying optimised operating blocks with a semi-mobile screening unit located near the mining front to prepare the ore for pipeline transport. The mineral sands concentrate would then be shipped to south China for further processing to achieve marketable products.

It is planned to develop the mine in two stages. At the first stage, the mine should produce 9.0 Million tonnes of ore per year (Mtpa) increasing ore production to 17.9 Mtpa in the second stage. At full production during the first stage, about 18 Million bank cubic meters of overburden has to be stripped per year to expose the ore. The heavy mineral concentration plant will accommodate the mined ore and will use de-sliming cyclones and spiral separators for concentrating.

After full production during stage one, 660,000 tpa of heavy mineral concentrate will be shipped to China for processing in wet magnetic separators and spiral separators to achieve 90% heavy minerals. Further treatment in an electrostatic mineral separation circuit will complete the recovery process.

During the second stage, shipment of heavy mineral concentrate should increase to 1.32 Mtpa.

Overall, the project poses some engineering challenges due to the complex mineral preparation process proposed for the relatively fine-grained mineral sands. With the proposed and proven technology available, it is considered possible to achieve a workable and satisfactory process solution.

A decision on implementing the project is expected early in 2016 after detailed design is complete and financing has been secured.

Yonglian Sun: ysun@srk.cn
Bruno Strasser: bstrasser@srk.cn


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