Thunderbird mineral sands project, Australia – update

Image of drill core from the Thunderbird project

Photo by Sheffield Resources

22nd September 2023

By: Sheila Barradas

Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor


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Name of the Project
Thunderbird mineral sands project.

Kimberley region, northern Western Australia.

Project Owner/s
Kimberley Mineral Sands (KMS), a 50:50 joint venture between Sheffield Resources and YGH Australia Investment.

Project Description
A bankable feasibility (BFS) has been completed on a simplified process flowsheet for the project, which has resulted in lower capital costs and improved margins for a significant improvement in project economics.

The 2022 BFS has removed the ilmenite processing circuit, which included the low-temperature roaster circuit and ilmenite magnetic separation circuit included in the 2019 BFS update.

The BFS flowsheet is expected to produce a nonmagnetic concentrate product containing zircon and rutile, an ilmenite-rich magnetic concentrate and a paramagnetic concentrate.

Thunderbird will be developed in two stages.

Stage 1 and 2 of operations are expected to produce 1.4-million tonnes a year of zircon and ilmenite concentrates over an estimated 36-year life-of-mine (LoM).

The initial Stage 1 mining and processing feed rate is forecast at 1 085 dry tonnes an hour at the wet concentrate plant, with Stage 2 doubling the wet concentrate feed rate to 2 170 t/h during Year 5 of operations.

Potential Job Creation
Not stated.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The BFS delivers a prefinance, after-tax net present value, at an 8% discount rate, of A$1.28-billion and an internal rate of return of 27.5% over the LoM.

Capital Expenditure
Stage 1 is estimated at $361-million, including contingency. Total funding requirements for Stage 1 are estimated at A$484-million.

Planned Start/End Date
First production is targeted for the first quarter of 2024.

Latest Developments
Commissioning of the process plant at the Thunderbird mineral sands project is under way, with the project tracking within its budget of A$484-million.

“With commissioning activities well under way at Thunderbird, we are on track to deliver first ore production during the next quarter . . . and forecast first shipment of product in the first quarter of 2024.”

Key Contracts, Suppliers and Consultants
GR Engineering Services (engineering, procurement and construction – process facilities); and Piacentini & Son (services contract).

Contact Details for Project Information
Sheffield Resources, tel +61 8 6555 8777 or email

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