Mineral sands project exports first product

8th March 2024

Mineral sands project exports first product

START OF SOMETHING NEW KMS has exported its first product from the Thunderbird project

The first export of products from mineral sands developer Kimberley Mineral Sands’ (KMS’) Thunderbird mineral sands project, located on the Dampier peninsula in Western Australia, departed from Broome port in January this year, signifying the start of local exports of product from the mine.

The Thunderbird project, located mid-way between Derby and Broome, is being developed by KMS – a joint venture company equally owned by mineral exploration company Sheffield Resources and Chinese-owned investment company YGH Australia Investments.

The project, according to KMS, contains one of the largest and highest-grade mineral sands deposits globally and contains valuable heavy minerals including ilmenite, zircon, leucoxene and rutile, which will be exported through the Broome port.

About 5 100 t of bagged zircon product were loaded onto a chartered vessel bound for KMS’ global offtake partners, marking a significant step in the region's export industry, says KMS COO Michael Rose.

“These are the first mineral sands products to depart from Broome, and we’ve worked closely with the Kimberley Ports Authority and local shipping agencies to facilitate this historic shipment,” he says.

In preparation for the first bulk export in the near future, KMS also recently started transporting rotainers – rotatable shipping containers suitable for commodities – of product into Broome for storage.

The recent departure from Broome follows the earlier maiden shipment from the Thunderbird project, which set sail from Port Hedland.

Comprising about 300 t of non-magnetic concentrate zircon – sold to KMS’ global offtake partners ­– this shipment further underscored the project's growing significance in the mineral sands market, says KMS.

“The shipment left from Port Hedland to an existing container vessel service that operates regularly between Port Hedland and various Asian ports,” Rose says.

Zircon is used in various industries, including ceramics, in refractories and foundry casting production processes, and catalytic fuel converters, as well as in air and water purification systems.

Thunderbird, with a life of mine of more than 36 years, is situated within the Joombarn Buru Native title determination area on the Mount Jowlaenga and Yeeda pastoral leases and spans both the Shires of Derby-West Kimberley and Broome local government areas.