Iluka’s Murray Basin operations have involved mining, concentrating, mineral separation and transportation of mineral sands since 2006.
These operations form a significant component of the company's rutile and zircon production. Mining and concentrating operations at Woornack, Rownack, Pirro reached the end of its economic life in early 2015. The next planned mine development in the Murray Basin is the Balranald deposit in New South Wales.

Operational Overview


Mining

Iluka commenced mining the Douglas deposits, located near Horsham, Victoria, in 2006. Mining and processing concluded at Douglas in 2012. Between 2010 and 2012, ore was also transported from the Echo satellite mine to Douglas for concentration into heavy mineral concentrate.

A second mining stage (Murray Basin Stage 2) has developed a series of deposits in Victoria’s North West near the town of Ouyen. This has included the Kulwin deposit which was mined between late 2009 and early 2012.

Following the cessation of mining at Kulwin, equipment (mining plant, pre-concentrator and concentrator units) was relocated to the Woornack, Rownack and Pirro (WRP) deposits where mining started in May 2012. Mining at WRP was completed in the first half of 2015. Heavy mineral concentrate will be progressively processed at the Hamilton mineral separation plant until the next planned mine development in the Murray Basin, Balranald. The evaluation of Balranald is currently being undertaken. Further information on Balranald can be found here.

Dry mining techniques are used at the Murray Basin deposits, with ore being fed to a mining unit plant which removes oversize material. This material is disposed to a tailings storage facility or the mine void.

Ore is slurry pumped by pipeline to the wet concentrator plant where gravity separation of the lighter material produces a heavy mineral concentrate. The concentrate is transported to the Hamilton mineral separation plant, where it is processed into final products.

At Murray Basin Stage 2 deposits, a pre-concentrator and wet concentrator have operated. A wet high intensity magnetic separation (WHIMS) facility removes part of the ilmenite stream, such that this component of the heavy mineral concentrate is not transported to the mineral separation plant at Hamilton. The WHIMS material is able to be sold direct or fractionated at the company's North Capel dry mill in Western Australia as a feed source for Iluka's synthetic rutile kilns.

Transport

Heavy mineral concentrate produced at the WRP mine was transported by truck to a purpose-built rail loading facility at Hopetoun and then sent by rail to the Hamilton mineral separation plant. From Hamilton, finished product is transported by road to the Port of Portland for export, or in containers to Melbourne. Facilities at the Port of Portland include purpose-built mineral sands storage and ship loading facilities.

Processing

Commissioned in 2007, the Hamilton mineral separation plant is the processing hub of Iluka’s Murray Basin operations, with material from the Murray Basin and Eucla Basin (Iluka’s Jacinth-Ambrosia mine in South Australia) being transported to site for processing. Water, magnets, screening equipment and electrostatic tools are used to separate the heavy mineral concentrate to recover the saleable minerals of zircon, rutile and ilmenite.  These final products are transported to Portland and shipped to customers worldwide.

The mineral separation process leaves sands, clay and gypsum, and it is these by-products that are disposed of at the former Douglas site, in a manner approved and regulated by various Victorian Government agencies.

Under Iluka’s current plans, the heavy mineral concentrate produced from future mines in the Murray Basin and some part of Eucla Basin (South Australia) concentrate will be processed at the Hamilton mineral separation plant.  

Employment

Iluka draws the majority of its workforce from the local region. The nature of the mining, rehabilitation and processing activities allows on-site training for the local workforce. Iluka relocates experienced mining engineers, metallurgists and other professionals from other operations as required. 

The majority of Iluka’s Murray Basin employees are based at its Hamilton mineral separation plant, with many having involvement in mining, transportation and rehabilitation activities throughout the region and the broader operations group. Iluka operated a 120 person accommodation camp near the township of Ouyen to service the WRP mining and concentrating operation, approximately 25 kilometres away (since de-commissioned with completion of mining at WRP).
 

Environmental Management and Rehabilitation 

All mining, processing, rehabilitation and transportation activities undertaken in the Murray Basin are in accordance with strict environmental management requirements. Detailed environmental management plans are developed and approved by regulatory authorities, often in conjunction with other stakeholders. 

​Details on Iluka’s environmental management framework can be found below under Further Information.

Iluka’s rehabilitation activities in the Murray Basin have resulted in more than 700 hectares of land restored to pasture and native vegetation. The local workforce has support from Iluka’s extended network of environmental and rehabilitation professionals and builds on the company’s experience in mine rehabilitation activities in Australia and the United States. Iluka’s capabilities are supplemented by associations with research and academic institutions, including the University of Western Australia, University of Adelaide and the Virginia Polytechnic Institute and State University, (Virginia, USA).

Refer to Further Information below for details of Iluka’s current academic and industry partnerships.

At two former Murray Basin mine sites, Iluka has met and exceeded its regulatory requirements by seeking approval to improve upon the approved rehabilitation plan.

  • Echo: Iluka had approval after completion of mining to leave a void with steep batters (slopes).  The company sought and received supplementary approval to modify its rehabilitation design to create gentler slopes that could be topsoiled and revegetated. This enabled agricultural machinery to traverse the land. 
  • Kulwin: the initial rehabilitation plan at Kulwin was to leave a modified landform where clay and silt by-products would be rehabilitated within an elevated tailings storage facility or dam. Iluka gained supplementary approval to return the by-products to the mined pit, facilitating a closer restoration to the pre-mining landform.

Refer to Further Information below to view Iluka's Virtual Mine Site Tour which provides an overview of the mineral sands mining process, with examples under Rehabilitation relating to company practices in the Murray Basin, Victoria and Eucla Basin, South Australia.  

Regional socio-economic contributions

As part of its ongoing engagement with stakeholders, Iluka continues to identify opportunities for adding value to the Murray Basin region.  

Independent economic assessments revealed the company’s total Victorian activity (including flow on impacts) resulted in 1,614 jobs and $300.5 million in added value in 2013 in the State. For a more detailed breakdown, refer to Further Information below.

Further Information