Mineral sands

A look at Western Australia

Mineral sands
Iluka Resources in Western Australia.

Mineral sands production in Western Australia predominantly comprises titanium minerals such as ilmenite, leucoxene, synthetic rutile and rutile, and zircon.  Other products such as garnet sand and staurolite are also produced on a smaller scale.

In 2015-16, the value of Western Australia’s heavy mineral sands sector was $539 million.

China and the United States were Western Australia's major mineral sands export markets in 2015-16, accounting for 22 per cent and 17 per cent of total exports respectively.  Highlighting the diversity of export markets for these products, other major export destinations included the United Kingdom (11 per cent), the Netherlands (10 per cent) and Saudi Arabia (10 per cent). In fact, Western Australian mineral sands were exported to 48 countries across every inhabited continent on Earth in 2015-16 alone.

Mineral sands production in Western Australia is dominated by two producers, Iluka Resources and Tronox Management.

Uses

Almost all titanium minerals are used as feedstock to produce titanium dioxide pigment used in products such as paints, paper and plastics. A small proportion is also used in titanium metal, predominantly for the aerospace industry. Zircon has a number of applications, principally in the manufacture of ceramic tiles and sanitary ware.

Across the globe

Australia is estimated to have the world’s largest reserves of zircon with 51 million tonnes and 65 per cent of the world’s total estimated reserves of 78 million tonnes.  South Africa has the next largest estimated reserves at 14 million tonnes or 18 per cent.

Australia is estimated to have the world’s second largest ilmenite reserves at 140 million tonnes, 19 per cent of the world’s total estimated reserves.  China is estimated to have the largest reserves at 200 million tonnes (27 percent).

Australia is also estimated to have the largest rutile reserves at 22 million tonnes, 41 per cent of the world’s total estimated reserves.  Kenya and South Africa have the largest and second largest reserves with 13 million tonnes (24 per cent) and 8.3 million tonnes (16 per cent) respectively.

Heavy mineral sands graph
Mineral sands value line graph
Heavy mineral sands infographics
Mineral sands exports

Quarter

Quantity

Value

Mar-14

192.99

76.72

Jun-14

239.97

108.26

Sep-14

234.93

108.59

Dec-14

229.51

111.68

Mar-15

260.96

115.10

Jun-15

331.10

152.45

Sep-15

221.90

130.44

Dec-15

401.01

186.41

Mar-16

299.61

124.24

Jun-16

209.43

97.61