The Boonanarring mineral sands project near Perth, Western Australia, is developed by Image Resources.
The high-grade zircon-rich mineral sands project is a part of the company’s North Perth Basin mineral sands project, which is considered to be one of the highest grade sand resources under evaluation.
Image Resources began pre-construction activities at the Boonanarring project with site entry road construction in March 2018.
Wet commissioning of the plant was completed in December 2018 and production ramp-up started immediately. The first bulk shipment of HMC is scheduled to depart in December 2018.
The heavy minerals sands project is expected to produce approximately 89,000t of ilmenite and 32,400t of zircon a year over its ten-year mine-life. Annual production will also comprise 5,400t of leucoxene and 9,000t of rutile.
Boonanarring geology and mineralisation
The North Perth Basin mineral sands project comprises the Boonanarring and Atlas deposits. It is located within the Pleistocene Yoganup Formation on the eastern side of the Swan Coastal Plain.
The Yoganup Formation is classified as a buried pro-graded shoreline deposit spread unconformably over the Lower Cretaceous Leederville formation, which is overlain by the Quaternary Bassendean sand.
Boonanarring comprises three major strandlines of heavy minerals, which are believed to be deposited in a notch in the local basement rock during the Pleistocene age.
Low-grade mineralisation is present in the sands lying above the higher grade strandlines. The basement to the standline mineralisation is identified by the increased slimes content of the Leederville Formation, which host high zircon concentrations.
Reserves at Boonanarring mineral sands project
Boonanarring mineral sands project is estimated to contain probable reserves of 14.42 million tonnes (Mt) of ore containing 8.2% heavy minerals.
Mining and ore processing at Boonanarring mineral sands project
Conventional open-cut dry mining method is being applied at the Boonanarring mineral sands project.
Mine construction activities began in April 2018 with clearing and stockpiling of topsoil, followed by removal of overburden for the initial box cut of the mine.
Hitachi 1800 excavators and Cat 785 trucks were used primarily for the overburden removal.
Ore is being initially delivered to a mining feed unit (MFU) located within the active mining area, wherein it is being screened and added with water. Screened slurry is being initially treated in the mobile primary concentration plant followed by secondary concentration plant to produce a heavy minerals concentrate (HMC).
The concentrate undergoes further treatment in a relocatable dry mill to produce ilmenite, rutile, zircon, and leucoxene. The final HMC will be transported by road to Qube Bulk’s storage shed near the Bunbury port before shipping to China.
Image Resources entered an agreement with China-based Shantou Natfort Zirconium and Titanium (Natfort) for the sale of the entire HMC produced at Boonanarring in May 2017.
The two companies reached another agreement in October 2018 to allow 50% of HMC production to be sold to Hainan Wensheng High-Tech Materials (Wensheng). Natfort and Wensheng will each purchase 50% of the HMC produced at Boonanarring following the transaction.
Natfort has also agreed to sell the zircon produced by processing the HMC to Guangdong Orient Zirconic Ind Sci & Tech (OZC).
OZC agreed to purchase zircon in return for agreeing to suspend a previous zircon off-take agreement signed with Image Resources.
Infrastructure at Boonanarring
Electricity for the operations is being supplied from the south-west grid reticulated by connection to a nearby Western Power transmission line.
Image Resources has entered a heads of agreement with Sunrise Energy Group for the construction of a solar farm with capacity up to 4MW on land adjacent to the Boonanarring mine site.
The solar farm will provide approximately 25% of the electricity required for mining and processing operations.
Major work undertaken at Boonanarring includes construction of a wet concentrate plant (WCP), as well as associated plant and equipment and infrastructure.
Image Resources completed all the wet concentrate plant site civil works and concrete foundations and installed the major structural items by July 2018. Installation of spiral separators and associated pumps and pipes reached an advanced stage at the end of August 2018.
The slimes thickener and the flocculent make-up units were installed by September 2018, marking the completion of the majority of the structural and mechanical components for the WCP and thickener.
Funding for the Boonanarring project
Image Resources raised A$50m ($39m) in March 2018 by issuing senior secured loan notes to Pala Investments (Pala) and Castlelake IV, LP and CL V Investment Solutions under a loan note subscription agreement (LNSA).
The funds were completely drawn in May 2018 for the construction and commissioning of the mineral sands project.
Piacentini and Son (Piacentini) was awarded the mining contract for the project.
BMD Constructions was awarded the contract for the construction of a site entry road intersection for the project. A new site entry intersection is proposed to be constructed between Wannamal Road West and the planned site entry road as part of the contract.
TZ Mineral International prepared the bankable feasibility study (BFS) report for the HMS project and also updated it in November 2017, while Optiro was selected in 2017 to update the 2013 mineral resource estimates.
The BFS was prepared with support from multiple specialist consultants and engineers, including BatteryLimits, KeyPointe, AML, ATC Williams, Shawmac, Wyntak, Preston Consulting, PCF, SRK, and URS.
Qube Bulk is responsible for the road transportation of the HMC to the Bunbury port in Picton.