Iluka Resources will be suspending operations at synthetic rutile kiln 2 (SR2) at the Capel rutile operations in Western Australia from February for three to six months.
The suspension will assist Iluka to reduce its stocks of synthetic rutile at SR2, which are at an elevated level following a contract dispute with United States-based chemistry company Chemours last year.
Chemours will take its first shipment of 4000 tonnes of synthetic rutile for the 2021 calendar year later this month, in line with its contract.
Iluka has stressed there will be no redundancies due to the production suspension and the company will use this time to carry out maintenance works, restart the kiln and adjust production settings.
The suspension will also minimise operating costs for the company throughout 2021.
Iluka produced a record 61,000 tonnes of synthetic rutile at SR2 during the December quarter, a leap from the 55,000 tonnes in the previous quarter.
This contributed to the company’s full year synthetic rutile production of 227,000 tonnes, a production record for the company driven by higher runtime and use of reduced ilmenite stocks.
Production of heavy mineral sands at fellow Western Australian operation Cataby was down on the September quarter, at 117,000 tonnes due to lower ore grades.
This comprised 75,000 tonnes of magnetic material, used as synthetic rutile feed and 42,000 tonnes of non-magnetic material for zircon and rutile production.
Iluka processed 68,000 tonnes of heavy mineral sands at the Narngulu mineral separation plant, also in Western Australia, processing material exclusively from the Jacinth-Ambrosia zircon mine in South Australia.
This was down on the September quarter when it produced 89,000 tonnes, due to adjusted production settings implemented in April in response to the impact of COVID-19 on global zircon markets.
The Narngulu plant is flexible enough to return to higher production settings quickly whenever the market stabilises.