In February 2014, Iluka announced that it had concluded an Investment Agreement with the private, UK based, Metalysis Limited for an interest of 18.3 per cent of the company. Iluka's involvement provides access to a new, potentially disruptive technology and the potential benefits of a new source of high grade titanium dioxide feedstock demand.
Metalysis is developing a single stage process for the manufacture of various metals into powder form directly from ore. The initial work has focused on titanium and tantalum metals. The Metalysis process could result in material reductions in the cost of producing titanium powder and as such lead to significantly higher levels of use of titanium metal in a range of applications, given the superior attributes of titanium metal.
The advantages of the Metalysis process over traditional methods include:
- powder direct from titanium ore or upgraded feedstocks (synthetic rutile) resulting in fewer processing steps;
- minimal wastage;
- lower operating costs; and
- more environmentally efficient - lower energy use, reduced emissions and no hazardous chemicals required.
Iluka is contributing its knowledge and technical expertise to Metalysis in areas such as:
- customisation of titanium feedstock blends;
- project management and commercialisation capabilities; and
- process engineering.
The potential benefits for Iluka shareholders if the technology is able to be commercialised include:
- the investment in Metalysis will deliver significant value for shareholders as that company's value increases;
- Iluka has been granted by Metalysis a titanium metal licence as well as a right of first offer over future titanium metal powder production licences, consistent with the licence agreement in which Iluka has a non-exclusive licence, hence the potential to be involved in downstream processing; and
- the technology introduces a new source of demand for Iluka's high grade products of rutile and synthetic rutile.