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Iluka posts lower first-quarter volumes as planned

19th April 2024

By: Marleny Arnoldi

Deputy Editor Online

     

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Australia-focused mineral sands and rare earths miner Iluka Resources has reported lower year-on-year production for most of its commodities owing to inventory management and a major maintenance outage in the quarter ended March 31.

The company’s zircon/rutile/synthetic rutile production totalled 87 000 t, comprising 24 000 t of zircon sand, 13 000 t of zircon in concentrate, 37 000 t of synthetic rutile and 12 200 t of rutile.

Zircon sand output decreased by 59% year-on-year, while synthetic rutile output decreased by 55% year-on-year.

The overall output of these commodities was 42% lower compared with the first quarter of last year, which saw the company produce 150 900 t of zircon/rutile/synthetic rutile.

Ilmenite production was also lower at 69 000 t, compared with 152 300 t produced in the same quarter of last year, marking a 54% year-on-year decrease.

The Narngulu mineral separation plant for zircon and rutile production had been offline for six weeks in the reporting period owing to inventory management, while the SR2 kiln for synthetic rutile had a major maintenance outage and remains offline owing to market conditions.

Iluka explains that an increased weighting of zircon sand in the sales mix reflects tighter market conditions for premium grade sand when compared with lower quality grades and concentrates in general. “Demand continues to reflect underlying consumption as customers remain reluctant to restock,” the company adds.

This while the titanium dioxide market appears to experience better seasonal demand, with pigment prices following the stronger demand trend.  

The company’s mineral sands revenue totalled A$268-million in the quarter under review, which is a positive increase of 4.4% compared with revenue of A$257-million generated in the same quarter of last year.

Meanwhile, Iluka is building Australia’s first fully integrated refinery for the production of separated rare earth oxides at Eneabba, in Western Australia.

Iluka has a strategic partnership with the Australian government in place, with government having provided Iluka with a $1.25-billion non-recourse loan under the Critical Minerals Facility administered by Export Finance Australia.

The company last year completed bulk earthworks on the site, with upgrades to the main mine access road and water pipework being underway.

The company is also advancing various procurement packages ahead of construction on the project. Iluka expects to spend between $1.7-billion and $1.8-billion on the project.

Iluka is also advancing the Balranald rutile-rich development in New South Wales, with the project being on track for commissioning in the second half of 2025, as well as the Wimmera project, in Victoria, which is still in the definitive feasibility study stage.

The company will continue to do exploration in Australia and the US, after having conducted 16 161 m of drilling in the reporting quarter.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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