Iluka operates three mineral separation plants:
The mineral separation plant at Narngulu processes Jacinth-Ambrosia concentrate, as well as concentrates from Western Australian mining operations.
VICTORIA, NEW SOUTH WALES
The Hamilton mineral separation plant accepts both Murray Basin and Jacinth-Ambrosia concentrate.
STONY CREEK, VIRGINIA
The Stony Creek mineral separation plant accepts concentrate from one or both of the mining operations in Virginia and will be capable of accepting concentrate from planned new deposits.
In the case of Iluka’s Australian mineral separation plants, varying concentrate feed from various mining operations (including external) are capable of being processed.
In terms of mineral separation plants, the engine room is the electrostatics. The technology for separation is primarily electrostatic separation: separation based on the conductivity differential between the minerals.
Circuit configurations can be quite variable and depend upon the heavily mineral assemblage of the feedstock. For example, a low ilmenite deposit would not require a magnetic separation circuit. ilmenite would typically be recovered from the rutile circuit magnetic separation stage.
The circuit design has to be matched to the mineral assemblage so that output is unconstrained and recoveries optimised. Surface conditions can affect separation: alumina silica coatings, either bound or unbound, can have a very deleterious effect on electrostatic response. This goes to the importance of the feed preparation circuit upstream. Iron based coatings on zircon can also affect the conductivity differential between zircon and the titanium dioxide species. Salts, including salts that have been dried onto the surface, affect the electrostatic response under varying atmospheric conditions. Managing atmospheric conditions in a mineral separation plant is also one of the most important process control steps.
The ilmenite and the alteration profile of the ilmenite determine its suitability for different markets, whether it is a sulphate pigment market, chloride market or whether it is suitable for upgrading into synthetic rutile.
The mineralogy, morphology, size, shape, elemental composition are all important components in the separation process and in separation efficiencies
. For example, for zircon, uranium and thorium content is pertinent to transportation and waste disposal, but also with ilmenite the non titanium dioxide components and their quantity affect the product’s marketability, in which destination, and in which market it can be supplied. Almost all of the elements are important in terms of the intrinsic quality.
Zircon is an opaque, hard wearing, inert mineral. It is primarily used in the production of ceramic tiles. Other applications include use in refractories and foundry casting and a growing array of specialty applications as zirconia and zirconium chemicals.
Titanium dioxide (mined as ilmenite or rutile) is a dark coloured mineral which, with processing, becomes white and opaque. It is primarily used as a whitening pigment in paints, plastics and paper. Titanium dioxide is also used in the manufacture of titanium metal and welding flux wire cord.