What are mineral sands?
What are mineral sands?
Mineral sands are usually mined from beach sands. These may be modern beaches as in the case of the Eastern Coast of Australia, or ancient beaches like the Fingerboards Project.
Mineral sands is the term used to describe the valuable heavier sands of the beach. The valuable mineral sands of the Fingerboards deposit are zircon, rutile, ilmenite and rare earths.
Mineral sands minerals are used in a range of everyday products including tiles, paint, plastics, sunscreen and even in foodstuffs. They are also essential to high-tech industries with uses in renewable energy,
Around 45% of zircon is used in ceramics, with the biggest use is in tiles, bathroom fixtures and tableware. It is also used in high-tech applications like bone replacements, abrasion resistance and solid oxide fuel cells.
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. It replaced lead oxide in paint when lead oxide was found to be poisonous. 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 to lighten the weight of the transport industry, for sporting goods, medical equipment like hip replacements and even in the space industry.
Rare Earths is a group of elements that are not actually that rare in the earth’s crust, but are rare to find in economic concentrations. The Fingerboards deposit is rich in the highly valuable rare earths Neodinium, Prasodynium, Dysprosium and Terbium. These rare earths are used in myriad applications but are essential to high-tech mobile technology, medical applications, temperature magnets used in windfarms, and the powerful batteries in electric vehicles.
The Fingerboards Mine is one of the largest zircon and rare earth development projects in the world. Once in production, the Fingerboards is expected to supply up to 10% of global demand for rare earths required for the development of clean energy. This will be pivotal, to Bloomberg’s estimate of wind and solar energy reaching a combined 48% of global energy capacity by 2040.
The proposed Gippsland off-shore wind farm would consume roughly 50% of the Fingerboards annual Neodynium and Prasodynium (NdPr) production, enabling the construction of 14,000 gigawatts of wind power annually; enough to power 14 million homes.
Rare earths production from the Fingerboards is enough to construct 2.8 million electric vehicles annually.