What are mineral sands?
Mineral sands are ancient beach sands that contain concentrations of minerals including zircon, rutile and ilmenite (titanium minerals). Zircon is rare and one of the most valuable heavy mineral. They are used in a range of everyday products including tiles, paint, plastics, sunscreen and even in foodstuffs like lollies – food processors use mineral sands to produce bright glossy colours in sweets.
Zircon is mostly used in ceramics. The biggest use is in tiles, bathroom fixtures and tableware.
Rutile and ilmenite are generally converted into titanium dioxide and titanium metal. Titanium dioxide is the white pigment that is used in paints and plastics and replaced lead oxide in paint. Most of us will use a product containing titanium dioxide on a daily basis – brushing our teeth with toothpaste, applying sunscreen or making a note on a piece of white paper.
Titanium metal is used for sporting goods, medical equipment and even in the space industry.