Sheffield swerves on Thunderbird strategy

The Thunderbird project. Image: Sheffield Resources

Sheffield Resources has suspended the care and maintenance activities that are currently being undertaken at the Thunderbird mineral sands project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The company has assisted Kimberley-based employees in their transition to other employment opportunities.

The decision is part of Sheffield’s initiatives to preserve cash along with a 25 per cent cut on executive salary.

Sheffield has reduced its employee positions in both Perth and the Kimberley, and lowered full-time equivalent working arrangements for other personnel.

The company voluntarily surrendered granted exploration tenure from fire tenements at the Dampier project in Western Australia to further reduce around $500,000 in expenditure commitments a year.

It also relinquished its interest in South Australia by withdrawing exploration lease applications for the Barton and Ceduna projects.

Despite these cost-cutting measures, Sheffield ensured that the Thunderbird site remained ready for construction and that the project approvals were maintained.

“The company held a number of engagement meetings and media communications events to ensure the community and the key project stakeholders were fully informed regarding the company’s strategy and particularly the suspension of care and maintenance activities at the Thunderbird project,” Sheffield managing director Bruce McFadzean said.

Sheffield is now considering a revision to Thunderbird’s bankable feasibility study update to deliver the project with lower initial capital costs and high rates of return.

In 2017, Sheffield released a bankable feasibility study which projected Thunderbird to generate an earnings before interest, tax, depreciation and amortisation (EBITDA) of $5.1 billion over a 42-year mine life.

The company is now at an early stage of conducting initial work on the flowsheet that is focused on delivering an ilmenite-rich magnetic concentrate and a zircon-rich non-magnetic concentrate.

“Thunderbird remains the only Tier 1 mineral sands project in a Tier 1 jurisdiction which is fully permitted and able to be brought into production at a time when the gap between consumption and production of both zircon and titanium minerals is rapidly emerging,” McFadzean said.

“In conjunction with the company’s forward business strategy, discussions with potential offtake partners continued in the quarter.

“Many potential offtake groups demonstrate very strong interest in a range of product mixes, particularly the supply of magnetic and non-magnetic concentrates.”

Sheffield intends to continue its work on the flowsheet in the June quarter.

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