Production has started at a $1,2-billion project for the Rio Tinto group, in Madagascar, which CEO Tom Albanese described as “a model for future projects in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world”.
The diversified miner said in a statement that its subsidiary, Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium, had started producing ilmenite at its QIT Madagascar Minerals (QMM) mineral sands operation, in Madagascar.
The development, which was 80%-owned by Rio Tinto and 20%- by the government of Madagascar, would deliver product containing 60% titanium dioxide (TiO2).
The ilmenite would then be shipped to Rio Tinto’s metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, in Quebec, Canada, which had upgraded its facilities to process the product.
The complex would produce a 90% TiO2 chloride slag, which was suitable for global titanium feedstock markets, for use in the manufacturing of pigments for the paint and the plastics industries.
The $1,2-billion investment included the operation in Mada-gascar and the upgrades to the metallurgical complex in Canada.
“The project will bring enormous benefits to the region. The floating dredge and wet plant, successfully launched in November, and the dry mill launched in December, are producing concentrate at target quality. We are still in the early commissioning stage, but expect to increase production over the coming months,” said Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium MD Harry Kenyon-Slaney.
The company expected to send the first shipment of ilmenite to Canada in March, after completing the construction of a new multiuser port at Ehoala, in Madagascar.
The port was being developed in a public–private partnership between QMM and the International Development Association, which had supplied it with a $35-million government grant.
The port, which could handle vessels up to 60 000 t, could also be used for other industries and as a destination for cruise ships, stated Rio Tinto.