Australia is a major world producer of heavy mineral sands, producing approximately 15% of the world’s ilmenite, 50% of the world’s rutile (USGS 2018) and 38% of the world’s zircon concentrates. The mineral sand industry consists of two major products, titanium oxides (in the form of rutile, ilmenite and leucoxene) and zircon. The concentration of mineral sands is typically performed in two stages, wet and dry processing. Wet processing utilises the sizing and gravity differentiation between heavy minerals (HM), clay and quartz to produce a HM concentrate. Dry processing involves the separation of the HM concentrate into products by exploiting the magnetic and electrostatic properties of the minerals of interest.
Titanium oxides are predominantly used as pigment feedstocks, as well as in specialist applications including welding electrodes and titanium metal. Zircon products are primarily used in the manufacturing of tiles and ceramics.