The Victorian mineral sands industry presents a figurative gold mine for those in a position to dip their toes in, but regulation and approvals remain a barrier to success in the state.
The state’s mineral sands endowment includes an estimated 350 million tonnes of coarse grained deposits and a further three billion tonnes of fine grained.
In an Australian context, these resources represent 22 per cent of the country’s ilmenite, 51 per cent of its rutile and 39 per cent of its zircon.
Minerals Council of Australia executive director for Victoria, James Sorahan, told Australian Mining there was much benefit in developing the region.
“The development of the pipeline of mineral sands projects would involve hundreds of millions of dollars in direct regional investment and create hundreds of direct operating jobs while supporting indirect jobs and other businesses in Victoria,” Sorahan said.
“The development of Victoria’s mineral sands mines will play an important role in Victoria’s regional development to diversify regional economies and modern mining coexists with regional tourism and agriculture.”
The obstacles appear, however, as businesses enter the regulatory and approvals phase.
Sorahan said the removal of duplicate hurdles and a more efficient administrative process would allow for a more prosperous region.
“Victoria ranks poorly on perceptions of public policy on mining investment according to the Fraser Institute’s Annual Survey of Mining Companies, with Victoria ranking behind every state other than Tasmania,” he said. “This needs to be improved with government action.”
Major players in the region currently include Kalbar Resources, Donald Mineral Sands, WIM Resources and Iluka Resources.
Kalbar applied for a mining license at its Fingerboards heavy mineral sands project near Bairnsdale in June and intends to access its rare earths resource by 2025.
Sorahan said the MCA is working on improving the process for companies like Kalbar to access their resources in a more streamlined manner.
“MCA is working with local councils, education providers and business chambers to develop education pathways to ensure projects have the skills in the local area, and to ensure locals benefit through jobs, training and infrastructure that will come with the development of mineral sands projects,” he said.