Iluka setting up WA for self-sufficient rare earths


Credit: David Broadway Photography/Iluka Resources

Iluka Resources has continued to develop its Western Australian mineral sands operations, after Eneabba began phase two construction and Capel rebounded from a suspension in the first half of 2021.

After a shaky start to 2021, when the Capel rutile operations were suspended due to higher-than-expected synthetic rutile stocks, Iluka has now returned the site’s Kiln two (SR2) to full capacity.

So too has the Narngulu mineral separation plant, 600 kilometres north of Capel, which contributed to the company’s ramp up in production.

“This production response has been matched by important progress across our major projects,” Iluka Resources managing director Tom O’Leary said.

“From a mineral sands perspective, we have taken decisions to execute the restart of synthetic rutile kiln one at Capel, commence a definitive feasibility study for the Balranald development in New South Wales and move to larger scale piloting in relation to the Wimmera development in Victoria.”

At the Eneabba development, 275 kilometres north of Perth, construction has begun on the phase two development with completion due in the first half of 2022.

Eneabba is already the world’s highest grade rare earths operation and Iluka will look to begin processing its own product once the phase three feasibility study has been completed.

“Iluka’s feasibility study for phase three – a fully integrated rare earths refinery – is progressing in parallel, with most work scheduled for completion by the end of 2021, in advance of finalisation of the feasibility study in early 2022,” O’Leary said.

The company received a letter of support from the Australian Government earlier in 2021, which outlined the risks and rewards of progressing Australia’s standing in rare earths mining and processing.

“The government will continue to work with proponents of critical minerals and rare earths projects, including those that could supply concentrates to the Eneabba refinery, to consider options for support,” the letter from Minister for Trade, Tourism and Investment Dan Tehan, and the Minister for Resources, Water and Northern Australia Keith Pitt stated.

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