Image Resources upbeat for mineral sands production in 2023
Mineral sands producer Image Resources posted a productive quarter with higher-than-forecast tonnes of ore processed at its flagship wholly-owned, high-grade, zircon-rich Boonanarring mineral sands project, located 80km north of Perth in WA’s North Perth Basin.
Lower ore grades were partially offset by higher production and heavy mineral concentrate sales were in line with forecast, with a 7 percent higher than average realized price per ton due to higher zircon content and a more favorable exchange rate.
Despite rising fuel costs, labor shortages and general inflation, Image benefited from reduced operating cash costs and lower shipping costs in the last quarter of 2022. Operating costs remained relatively constant. In addition, the finalization of an additional land access agreement will facilitate the expansion of mining and concentrate production at Boonanarring into the second half of this year.
In addition to efforts aimed at expanding mining at Boonanarring, management has focused on project development efforts for the nearby Atlas project, just 80km north of Boonanarring, within Image’s sizeable lease package in the North Perth Basin.
The company has flagged an updated ore reserve at Atlas of 5.5 million tonnes at 9.4 percent total heavy minerals, with average grades of 11.9 percent zircon, 7.9 percent rutile, 4.9 percent leucoxene and 53 percent ilmenite in total heavy minerals. Image expects the Atlas development to be funded from internal cash reserves and subject to appropriate approvals, mining is scheduled to commence later in 2023 and will be followed by heavy mineral concentrate production in the final quarter of this year.
It is worth noting that Image is fully committed to sales of heavy mineral concentrate at market based prices. The Atlas reserve has a life of 2.5 years and is expected to generate strong cash flow from the high value well center in its first year of production.
Image is also progressing a preliminary feasibility study for the 10-year Bidaminna project near Regan’s Ford, 80km north of Perth and 30km inland from Lancelin and planning future developments of additional projects arising from the recent strategic acquisitions of the Eneabba townhouses and McCalls Project. In particular, a preliminary assessment of Yandanooka and Durack projects within the Eneabba housing estates and the McCalls project is underway.
Image has calculated that the Eneabba tenements will provide the opportunity for 10–20 years of dry mining of very shallow mineralization, using the same recovery techniques used at Boonanarring.
However, the McCalls project has the potential of more than 50 years of dry or hydraulic mining with thick and broad seams of shallow mineralization containing high-grade ilmenite.
The acquisition of the Eneabba townhouses and McCalls project significantly increased Image’s mineral sands portfolio and boosted the company’s total mineral resources 16-fold to more than a whopping 1.8 billion tonnes in the measured and indicated categories.
In the innovation space, Image has successfully partnered with Mineral Technologies in a cost-sharing arrangement for the construction and operation of a demonstration-scale wet concentration plant at Boonanarring. The plant was designed to confirm that MT’s innovative, smaller diameter heavy mineral separation spiral technology can perform as well or better than industry standard spiral technology currently used at Boonanarring.
Construction, commissioning and testing of the new plant has recently been completed. Overall, the test results successfully demonstrated that the new spiral technology is very competitive in metallurgical performance, with the additional paybacks of a significantly smaller wet concentration plant footprint. The new plant can operate at much higher slurry solids content than standard spiral technology, another useful advantage. Image subsequently committed to using this new CT1 technology on a commercial scale at Atlas, in combination with standard spiral technology.
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