Sheffield Resources has hit an early milestone at its Thunderbird project in Western Australia with the state government’s approval to commence mining.
The company has received the approvals to undertake processing, maintenance and haulage activities during the stage one of the mineral sands project.
The Western Australian Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS) has also approved Sheffield’s mine closure plan for Thunderbird.
Sheffield managing director Bruce McFadzean said this achievement allowed work to commence on site and paves the way for future construction activities.
“It is very pleasing to finalise the mining proposal and mine closure plan for the world class Thunderbird mineral sands project, as the company works toward securing the final portion of the project funding through various partnering and funding options available to the company,” McFadzean said.
Sheffield secured an offtake agreement for the sale of Thunderbird’s unroasted primary ilmenite with China’s Bengbu Zhongheng New Materials in July.
Bengbu, which is the world’s largest producer of fused zirconia, has planned to use Sheffield’s primary ilmenite in the production of chloride slag, a material in high demand for the growing market of chloride pigment production.
Sheffield would, however, replace its ilmenite revenue with increased zircon production from Thunderbird following an update to its bankable feasibility study (BFS), which was due for completion in the July quarter.
The company has reported strong interest from offtake groups in Europe and China for the additional BFS product volumes.
Sheffield estimated that significant supply shortages of premium zircon would emerge in the mid-long term.