Critical minerals, News

Thunderbird production flies high

thunderbird mineral sands

Sheffield Resources’ Kimberley Mineral Sands has seen a major ramp up in production at the Thunderbird mineral sands mine in Western Australia.

Thunderbird has produced about 1.35 million tonnes (Mt) for the June 2024 quarter to date, a substantial increase from the previous quarter where 1.1Mt was produced.

During the month of May, Thunderbird produced about 750,000 tonnes, which in line with the current ramp up schedule working towards an annualised ore mining rate of 10Mt per annum.

The increase in Thunderbird mine production led to an increase in concentrates production, with about 65,000 tonnes of ilmenite produced in the June quarter to date. Around 37,000 tonnes was produced in May.

Thunderbird also produced 20,000 tonnes of zircon concentrate for the June quarter to date, with 12,000 tonnes produced in May.

“The ramp up of activities at Thunderbird is progressing very well and the significant step change in production and shipment achievements during this quarter demonstrate that we are moving forward toward nameplate capacity in line with our original plans,” Sheffield executive chair Bruce Griffin said.

“While we have observed cost pressure and near-term pressure on realised zircon concentrate pricing, Thunderbird remains a world class mineral sands asset capable of solid production and cost performance across many decades to come.”

The increase in mine and concentrate production at Thunderbird follows the first bulk shipment of zircon concentrate being shipped from the operation in late March.

Sheffield said Thunderbird product shipments for the June quarter have continued to grow, with about 55,000 tonnes of ilmenite concentrate being dispatched to Yansteel, Sheffield’s 50:50 joint venture partner for Kimberley Mineral Sands.

The loading of around 30,000 tonnes of ilmenite concentrate is currently underway, with regular bulk product shipments via the Port of Broome expected throughout the rest of the June quarter.

The Thunderbird project boasts one of the largest high-grade mineral sands deposits discovered in the last 30 years.

Operations began at the site in October 2023, with the project expected to produce a suite of mineral sands concentrate products.

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