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Tormin Mineral Sands faces production delays

19th February 2024

By: Sabrina Jardim

Creamer Media Online Writer

     

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Mining and development company Mineral Commodities’ (MRC’s) operations at the Tormin mine, in South Africa – held by the company’s 50%-owned subsidiary Mineral Sands Resources – have, so far, performed below expectations in the March quarter of this year.

While production in the December 2023 quarter was a substantial improvement on previous quarters, the company notes that that performance has not been sustained so far in the current quarter, with unplanned delays in mine and plant impacting on production.

The primary concentration plant for Inland Strand material and the secondary plant have continued production throughout this period.

However, beach mining and primary processing have not been in production, owing to a lack of availability of mining equipment. Beach production is expected to resume by the beginning of March.

Factors impacting on the year-to-date performance include feed reducing owing to mobile equipment in-service failures.

The company reports that mobile equipment availability is below target, with excavator fleet failure having had the biggest impact in January and February this year. This has meant that beach mining is currently not in production.

Hence, a new excavator has been sourced and is expected to be delivered by the end of February.

The mobile fleet at Tormin – which includes trucks, loaders, excavators and dozers – operates in harsh coastal and saltwater conditions, with the majority of mobile equipment machines being past their expected life for this environment.

To achieve production targets and maintain reliable performance, new or second-hand mobile equipment will be required to replace mobile equipment that is near term end-of-life or that cannot economically be repaired or rebuilt.

MRC is currently accelerating its fleet replacement strategy and is evaluating two options to source and replace mobile equipment.

Quotations for the costs associated with these two alternatives are expected by the end of February, with a decision on the most cost-effective solution to be made soon thereafter.

In addition to making a decision regarding the lowest cost fleet replacement strategy, work is also under way to optimise the mine plan and schedule to minimise haulage distances and other factors impacting on total fleet requirements.

Garnet separation plant delays are also impacting on the company’s year-to-date performance, with the plant operation having been interrupted by below expectation availability and delays in establishing additional tailing storage facility capacity from late January to mid-February this year.

The primary concentration plant for Inland Strand material and the secondary plant have been in production.

However, the company anticipates that the primary concentration plant for Inland Strand material may be unavailable for a period after a breakdown shaft failure on the pre-concentration de-agglomeration unit on February 17.

MRC has managed to urgently source a second-hand shaft and Inland Strand material processing will recommence once this scrubber unit is repaired.

MRC will also implement changes to improve efficiency and reliability of processing.

This includes process plant changes to better manage slimes material inherent in the inland material – including but not limited to double efficiency cyclones and improved water circulation quality.

Changes also include increasing seawater supply capacity along with changes to secure critical spare pipes and reduce risk of storm damage; introduction of a third primary concentrator which will increase theoretical processing capacity and improve plant reliability; and enhanced maintenance systems and procedures.

SALES IMPACT

Delivery of saleable product continued in the March quarter, including the delivery of a 50 000 t ilmenite shipment in January.

One shipment of zircon/rutile is at the port awaiting loading with another shipment at site ready for transportation.

Garnet production and delivery have been hampered by process plant delays. June quarter deliveries may be impacted by reduced stocks of finished product and ramping up of replacement mobile equipment.

“It is unfortunate that after such an encouraging final quarter in 2023, we have begun 2024 below target. Our focus going forward is to find cost-effective solutions to meet production targets,” comments MRC CEO Scott Lowe.

MRC is a producer of zircon, rutile, garnet, magnetite and ilmenite concentrates through its Tormin Minerals Sands operation, in the Western Cape, South Africa.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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