Who is Iluka?
Iluka Resources (Iluka) is an international mineral sands company with expertise in exploration, development, mining, processing, marketing and rehabilitation.
With over 60 years’ of industry experience, Iluka is a leading global producer of zircon and the high grade titanium dioxide feedstocks rutile and synthetic rutile. Additionally, Iluka has an emerging portfolio in rare earth elements (rare earths).
Iluka’s portfolio includes active mine sites and processing facilities in Australia and Sierra Leone.
What are monazite and rare earths?
Monazite is a mineral containing rare earth oxides (REO) including neodymium, praseodymium, cerium, lanthanum and other mineral elements. Rare earths are a subset of mineral sands.
The high value rare earth elements contained in Iluka’s mineral products, particularly neodymium and praseodymium, are used to create powerful permanent magnets. Permanent magnets are used in clean energy and high-end technology solutions including wind turbines and electric vehicles. Rare earths are also used in catalytic converters for vehicle emission control of hybrid and petrol-fuelled cars, in modern rechargeable batteries, and as an alloying agent to create high-strength metals in aircraft engines.
Permanent magnets and catalysts account for around half the demand of rare earths used globally.
What Phase is the project at?
Phase 1 - Operational
Phase 2 - Under Construction
After receiving Ministerial approval in April 2021, Phase 2 is currently under construction, with commissioning scheduled for the first half of 2022.
Phase 3 - Feasibility study
During this phase various options are considered and assessed, leading to a recommendation for approval by the Iluka Board of Directors. If approved, the project will progress to the construction, or execute, phase.
Concurrently, Iluka will start applying for the necessary government permits and approvals in the second half of 2021, extending into 2022.
Will the project be subject to government approvals?
Yes. The upgrade project are subject to approvals and ongoing regulation under a number of different laws and regulations, these are:
- Mineral Sands (Eneabba) Agreement Act 1975 (DJTSI);
- Environmental Protection Act 1986 (DWER);
- Radiation Safety Act 1975 (RCWA);
- Radiation Safety (Transport of Radioactive Substances) Regulations 2002;
- The Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972;
- ARPANSA Code of practice for the Safe Transportation of Radioactive Material (2008);
- Mines Safety and Inspection Act 1994 and Regulations 1995 (DMIRS); and
- Customs (Prohibited Exports) Regulations 1958 (DISER, Cth) (Phase 1 and 2 of the project only).
The first step of approvals for Phase 3 is to consult with the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) and Commonwealth Department of Agricultural, Water and Environment (DAWE) regarding the referral of the project during the second half of 2021. The EPA and DAWE will determine the levels of assessment proportionate to the project’s potential impacts.
Is the product radioactive?
Phase 1 and 2
Yes. Mineral sands, as with other mineral ores, mineral products and soils, contain natural occurring radioactive material (NORM). This is associated with low levels of naturally occurring uranium and thorium contained within the grains of the minerals we recover and return to the mine void.
While the level of NORM in most natural substances is low, any operation in which material containing radiation is extracted from the earth and processed can concentrate NORM in the mineral sands products, by-products and residue materials. For this reason, stringent, internationally-recognised radiation management standards are adopted to protect human health and the environment.
The rare earth products produced from Phase 3 will not be radioactive (under 1 Bq/g) and would therefore not require regulatory oversight for radiation safety.
Is it safe?
If managed correctly, yes.
Iluka has more than 60 years of experience mining and processing mineral sands in Australia.
The company applies radiation management practices that align with international best practice as defined by the International Commission on Radiological Protection, the International Atomic Energy Agency, as well as the relevant jurisdiction’s legislation. We identify, assess and control risks associated with NORM, radon gas and human activity through all phases of our activities – exploration, project development, operations, rehabilitation and closure. Iluka’s Group Radiation Management Standard and site-specific radiation management plans ensure exposure to radiation meets the prescribed statutory limits and is as low as is reasonably achievable.
How are rare earths extracted from the monazite rich mineral in Phase 3?
Roasting and Leaching
Acid is added to the heavy mineral concentrate, which is heated to around 300°C ,to convert the rare earth minerals into a soluble form. The product from the kiln is dissolved in water.
Impurities are precipitated and removed from the solution by neutralisation. The precipitate is the main waste stream, consisting of sulfates (mainly calcium) and phosphates (mainly iron). The majority of the radioactive components are captured in this stream.
Rare earth elements are separated from one another using solvent extraction technology.
Separated rare earth products are precipitated from each stream, and in the case of the high value products, are heated and converted into oxides.
How will product be transported from Eneabba?
Phase 1 and 2
The High Mineral Concentrate (HMC) and monazite products are transported by truck. The monazite is packaged at Eneabba into two-tonne bulka bags, each wrapped with a plastic film to provide a seal, and then placed within 20-foot fully sealed, customised sea containers, providing three layers of protection. The transport route uses the Brand Highway from our site south of the Eneabba town, through Dongara, to our Narngulu operations near Geraldton.
The final product will be bagged and transported by road train within sealed sea containers for export from Fremantle Port.
It is expected on average, up to five trucks per week will travel between Eneabba and Fremantle Port. 17,000tpa of rare earth materials with be exported to customers largely producing permanent magnets.
A transportation risk assessment is conducted at each Phase.
Where will product be processed?
Both the monazite and HMC from Phases 1 and Phase 2 will be initially processed at Eneabba, then the monazite will be packaged and transported by road to Narngulu for interim storage before export via Geraldton Port.
Phase 3 would see the development of a fully integrated rare earths refinery. The monazite would be processed on-site at Eneabba to produce rare earth oxides.
The HMC produced through all Phases, containing zircon and ilmenite, will be feedstock for Iluka’s Narngulu operations near Geraldton and will be similar to material that is already processed there.
What about waste products?
Should Phase 3 proceed, solid waste material produced by the refinery will be disposed within engineered waste facilities. These facilities will be located within existing mine voids or previous mine voids within the Mining Lease.
The radiation content of the waste products is expected to be Very Low Level Waste (VLLW), as classified by Regulators, and suitable for disposal in near surface, industrial or commercial, landfill type facilities.
VLLW needs a moderate level of containment and isolation. Once a waste facility is full, it will be appropriately capped and closed with benign material and prepared for its final land use.
Will there be any environmental impacts?
Given the project is located on a brownfields operational mine site, environmental impacts are expected to be minimal and able to be addressed. If any environmental impacts are identified, they will be minimised and managed under Western Australia’s stringent environmental and industry regulations. The regulatory obligations the project is likely to be subject to include ongoing environmental monitoring, management plans, reporting and auditing.
How much water will the project use?
Should Phase 3 proceed, water will be supplied from existing production bores located within Iluka’s existing Mining Lease. Approximately 2GL per annum will be extracted for all the Eneabba project phases, utilising existing allocations under Iluka’s Ground Water Licenses, which provide for up to 11GL of water annually.
Where possible we will seek opportunities to recycle water through the plant during the processing.
Will the project create jobs for locals?
Where possible, Iluka aims to employ qualified people from the region.
Throughout Phase 2 construction, Iluka has awarded major and minor works to local Mid West businesses including:
- civil construction and concreting;
- HV electrical installation;
- geotechnical (soil testing);
- repair and upgrades to roads;
- communication infrastructure;
- installation of offices and buildings;
- supply and installation of furniture;
- truck wash installation work, and more.
Phase 2: once operational, it is expected more than 20 workers will be required full-time for the life of the project.
Phase 3: up to 250 permanent employees will be required for the Phase 3 plant operations, with up to 300 people required during construction works.
What is the life of the project?
It is anticipated that the current Eneabba stockpile has a life of approximately 10 years, with the potential for additional feed stock from Iluka’s Wimmera deposit, which has a potential life of several decades.
The processing of additional third-party feed is also in consideration.
How big will Eneabba Phase 3 be and where will it be located?
The Eneabba Phase 3 refinery and solid waste disposal facilities will have a 600 hectare footprint within Iluka’s existing mining lease.
The proposed refinery and waste disposal facilities will be located within the current eastern Eneabba mine site, adjacent to the Eneabba mine pit, approximately 7km south of the town of Eneabba.
Where will Iluka’s workforce be accommodated?
Iluka has an existing workers camp at Eneabba and is exploring the options on how best to accommodate a larger workforce of DIDO workers from the region and Perth. Iluka will seek to encourage personnel to make permanent residence in the region, either around Eneabba or nearby.
What will the socio-economic impacts and opportunities of the project be?
Iluka has recently commenced the preparation of a Mid West regionally focused Social Impact Assessment (SIA) to support the development of a broader social strategy to underpin Iluka’s current and future operations and projects in the Mid West region of Western Australia. This process will also involve engagement with a wide range of stakeholders (including employees, contractors and suppliers),community and Traditional Owner groups to identify impacts and opportunities associated with Iluka’s current activities in the Mid West.
What economic development opportunities does this project present?
The strong demand for rare earths in permanent magnets, especially electric vehicles, supports the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy, which is targeting investment and incentives to extract, produce and process rare earths as part of a modern manufacturing focus domestically.
With our history in processing mineral sands and actively exploring opportunities for further development at Eneabba, Iluka is uniquely positioned to optimise these opportunities and in doing so, develop the first fully integrated rare earths refinery in Australia.
How will Iluka address Aboriginal cultural heritage across the development envelope and surrounds?
Iluka acknowledges that sites of cultural significance provide Aboriginal people and all Australians with a crucial link to our shared past, present and future health and wellbeing. Sites of significance are of immense historical, cultural, scientific, educational, economic, conservation, environmental and social importance to us all and especially to Aboriginal people.
Aboriginal people who are the local Traditional Owners of those sites have a deep cultural and spiritual connection to Country that comes with a responsibility to act as protectors and custodians which Iluka respects. To ensure sites are protected and managed appropriately partnerships based on trust, integrity, respect and transparency are essential.
Iluka is committed to working with Traditional Owners to build mutually beneficial partnerships so that any potential impacts from our activities at Eneabba are identified and addressed appropriately. To achieve this Iluka has commenced discussions with local Traditional Owners, the Yamatji Nation, to commence developing a targeted package of protection and management options that enable their custodian responsibilities to be met and to fulfil any requirements under Aboriginal Heritage Act 1972 including new provisions likely as part of the current review.
Will there be any opportunities for the stakeholders to provide feedback on the project?
We value the relationships we have developed with stakeholders and the community and will continue to provide opportunities to have genuine input that informs our planning and decision making.
Following our engagement with key stakeholders and the community as part of the approvals process for Eneabba Phase 2, we will continue to provide a range of opportunities to engage with key stakeholders and the community as we progress with the Eneabba Phase 3 proposal and keep you informed throughout the approvals process.
The Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) invites public comment through its consultation hub, and the Department of Agriculture, Water and Environment (DAWE) invites public comment through its EPBC Act – Public Notices page; each before deciding whether to assess the project and, if so, the level of assessment required.
How can we keep informed about the project?
Please register your details at the top of this page, to keep up to date with the project.
Alternatively you can reach us by email at email@example.com, online at www.iluka.com/contact-us, or by calling our 24-hour community line on 1800 305 993.