Iluka begins rutile production earlier than expected

Heavy minerals concentrate. Image: Iluka Resources

Iluka Resources has restarted production at synthetic rutile kiln 2 (SR2), part the Capel rutile operations in Western Australia, after lifting a suspension on activities at the operation.

In January, Iluka intended to halt SR2 operations for three to six months starting February.

This was due to higher-than-expected stocks of synthetic rutile following a contract dispute with United States-based chemistry company Chemours last year.

Iluka stated that the return of sales to Chemours and reduced inventory had allowed the company to return to production on April 1, with planned refurbishment also occurring during the suspension.

The company is anticipating full year synthetic rutile production to be 190,000 tonnes.

Iluka’s zircon, rutile and synthetic rutile sales in the March quarter were up 29 per cent on the December quarter, selling 87,000 tonnes of zircon and 76,000 tonnes of synthetic rutile.

The March quarter also saw Iluka’s Narngulu mineral separation plant in Western Australia return to full processing capacity in January.

The company’s zircon production has returned to full production at 70,000 tonnes as a result.

The plant was operating under adjusted production settings since March 2020 to limit zircon production in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.

Iluka also recorded minor damage from Cyclone Seroja at the Narngulu plant, with the site having no power or communication.

The plant was shut down on April 11 and returned to production on April 15 as a result of the cyclone.

Iluka stated that the the titanium metal market was showing signs of recovery, however would not return to its pre-COVID levels “for several years.”

“The titanium dioxide pigment market remains robust, with many producers running their assets to maximise throughput,” the company stated.

“The market for titanium metal is showing signs of improvement, with positive indicators evident in aircraft orders.

“Iluka has a minimum of (295,000) tonnes of rutile and synthetic rutile take-or-pay contracts with a range of customers in place for 2021. In addition, to date, a further 30,000 tonnes of high grade feedstocks are contracted.”

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