Iluka Resources managing director Tom O’Leary regards the company’s rare earths position as an “important and exciting opportunity” for the mineral sands company.
Iluka entered the rare earths market in July when the company sold its first products from the phase one operation at the Eneabba project in Western Australia.
This boosted the company’s non-mineral sands revenues by 65 per cent to $106 million in 2020 from the year before.
O’Leary said Iluka’s emerging position in rare earths presented a particularly important and exciting opportunity for the company.
“Eneabba is now the world’s highest grade rare earths operation,” he said.
“Commissioning for phase two of Eneabba’s development is scheduled for the first half of 2022.
“Additionally, Iluka is actively exploring the potential for the downstream processing of rare earths in Australia (phase three) and has commenced a feasibility study for a fully integrated rare earths refinery.”
Beyond rare earths, Iluka has observed signs of recovery in the zircon markets.
The company is set to push its zircon price by $US70 ($88) per tonne from April 2021.
It has also secured contracts for a minimum of around 295,000 tonnes of rutile and synthetic rutile for this year, despite a contract breach with Chemours last year.
Iluka anticipates a production of 285,000 tonnes of zircon, 200,000 tonnes of rutile and 115,000-175,000 tonnes of synthetic rutile this year.
“We look to the future with cautious optimism but also with some confidence as a result of the company’s performance in 2020 in dealing with and adapting to changes in the external environment,” O’Leary said.
Iluka owns the Cataby mineral sands mine in Western Australia and the Jacinth-Ambrosia zircon mine in South Australia.