The ASX’s newest mineral sands producer, Image Resources (ASX:IMA), has sold all of the zircon-rich heavy mineral concentrate it has produced so far.

Image told investors today that it had locked in signed sales agreements for 70,000 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) across three bulk shipments.

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The news edged shares up 4.6 per cent to an intra-day high of 23c on Monday morning.

The deals were done with the company’s offtake partners Shantou Natfort Zirconium and Titanium (Natfort) and Hainan Wensheng High-Tech Materials (Wensheng).

Managing director Patrick Mutz said the expressions of interest from the market for Image’s HMC product was timely, but not surprising given the overall quality of the Boonanarring deposit.

“However, the more important element in the shorter term is Natfort’s actions to commit to additional offtake deliveries on an accelerated basis to help fast-track Image’s objective of monetising product inventory.”

Mutz told Stockhead in mid-May that a typical mineral sands deposit contained about 10 per cent heavy minerals and about 3-4 per cent zircon.

The heavy mineral concentrate Image produces now typically contains 90-92 per cent heavy minerals and 30 per cent zircon.

And the company recently uncovered a section of “ultra-high-grade” ore at its Boonanarring mine in Western Australia that “could prove to be more valuable per tonne” than the high-quality heavy mineral concentrate it already produces.

Zircon is a found in mineral sands — old beach sands that also contain ilmenite and other minerals.

Its primary use is in the ceramics industry to make things like tiles and plates opaque.

But it also has a high melting point and is corrosion resistant, making it useful in the manufacturing process for foundry moulds, refractory bricks and molten metal moulds.

And it’s increasingly being used in new-age electronics, as well as engines and spacecraft.

Image is also in talks to sell a further 20,000-tonne shipment in July to Wensheng.

The company said it had also received “significant interest” from other potential buyers, but additional work was required to expand its export permit authority to include sales made to other buyers besides its offtake partners.


In other bulk news:

Emerging coal producer Aspire Mining (ASX:AKM) is closing in on the start of environmental studies for its Ovoot Early Development Project (OEDP) in Mongolia after ticking a couple of regulatory boxes. Aspire said the Mongolian Mineral Reserve Council had approved the total Ovoot reserves and approval of an updated feasibility Study for the project is expected shortly. These approvals pave the way for Aspire to begin the necessary environmental studies.

A definitive feasibility study is due for completion before the end of this year, which still puts Aspire on track for first coal production in the first half of 2021.

The market didn’t respond favourably to the news, with investors driving shares down 10 per cent to 1.8c.