Sri Lankan sands story shows plenty of scope for growth
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Special Report: Titanium Sands Limited has highlighted the potential to significantly expand its Mannar Island heavy mineral sands project in Sri Lanka after delivering a positive scoping study based on just 35% of the current resource.
Announcing the study on Tuesday, Titanium Sands (ASX: TSL) said it showed Mannar Island could support an economically robust, long-life dredging operation producing a high-quality ilmenite feedstock as its primary product.
Ilmenite is a mineral used as feedstocks to produce titanium dioxide (TIO2) pigment, which in turn is used in the manufacture of paints and other coatings, pastics and paper and a multitude of other industrial applications.
Based on the scenario assessed in the Mannar Island scoping study, initial production would occur on a zone measuring 10km by an average of 2km wide that contains 92.56 million tonnes at 5.24% total heavy minerals (THM).
Mining would be completed with a single dredge followed by processing through a primary concentrator and mineral separation plant.
Since Titanium Sands acquired Mannar Island in December 2018, the company has delivered several resource upgrades including a tripling in size in May this year.
The total resource for the project now stands at 264.93 million tonnes at 4.38% THM.
Titanium Sands managing director Dr James Searle said the fact that the scoping study produced a positive result based on only a small portion of the resource gave the company confidence to examine expanded production scenarios in more definitive studies that will begin shortly.
“We can now look at adding a second or even third dredge and commensurately larger processing capabilities,” he said.
“This would potentially deliver significant capital and operating cost efficiencies.”
Searle pointed out that the Mannar Island resources remained open at depth and to a partial extent laterally, with further drilling to take place to support project optimisation in future studies.
The unique deposition and concentration of mineralisation on the island has given rise to continuous zones of heavy minerals of up to 3km wide, 8km long and at least 12m thick that are amenable to dredge mining.
“This exceptional continuity of heavy mineral concentration means little or no zones of barren material within the interpreted resource model,” Searle said.
“In addition, there is essentially no barren sand overburden on the heavy mineral resources.”
Quality assessment of the minerals recovered from metallurgical testwork and long term pricing trends indicate the ilmenite product could achieve a price of $305 a tonne and would likely find a ready market with titanium slag and sulphate route pigment producers globally.
There would likely be minor credits for rutile, zircon and garnet, with those products expected to find a ready market as well.
Mannar Island is on the dry north-west coast of Sri Lanka, approximately 100km to the north of Iluka Resources’ Puttalam Quarry mineral sands project.
The island is joined to the mainland by a 3km road and rail causeway and is within trucking distance of three major ports.