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    Dean Menzel.

Iluka: Let’s talk about multi-million-dollar Toolondo venture

By Dean Lawson

Project leaders working on a mining plan likely to change Horsham’s socio-economic landscape if it goes ahead will ramp up public consultation surrounding the development.

Iluka Resources will expand an information-sharing program next month as part of requirements to keep regional community and stakeholders informed and engaged.

The company has, since September 2018, been exploring the potential of a multi-million-dollar Wimmera Project, a mineral sand-mining venture about eight kilometres north of Toolondo.

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If the project, about 40 kilometres south of Horsham, becomes a reality, expectations are it will create 300 to 350 jobs during construction and an additional 280 to 350 full-time jobs for up to 25 years.

Iluka Murray Basin regional manager Dean Menzel stressed the project was still ‘very much’ in an assessment stage, which meant it might or might not happen.

“There is still a lot of work to be done and it looks like our pre-feasibility study will go to the back end of this year,” he said.

“We are serious about the project, but will it happen? At this point we can’t answer that and of course we wouldn’t be there if it didn’t have potential.”

Mr Menzel said pre-feasibility work involved a range of technical studies and analysis scenarios based on building a commercial case for a mine.

“A big challenge for the project is to demonstrate an economically viable mineral-separation process,” he said.

“The very fine nature of the deposit means traditional mineral-separation techniques and processes are uneconomical.

“During the past 18 months Iluka has tested an innovative mineral-processing technique designed especially for fine minerals. 

“The pilot showed the technique is suitable and is being refined to ensure products meet customers’ stringent quality criteria.

“This work will be key to an Iluka board investment decision.”

The project is also subject to an Environmental Effects Statement, EES, which requires extensive community and stakeholder engagement.

“To date, Iluka’s focus has been on direct engagement with affected landowners and key regulatory stakeholders at all levels of government,” Mr Menzel said.

“We plan to increase engagement with other stakeholders and the broader community in line with key steps in the EES process. 

“The first of those will be a public exhibition period for EES scoping requirements.

“We are planning public forums and a range of other engagement activities around that milestone, which we expect to undertake in March.”

Mr Menzel said Iluka had also commissioned a socio-economic study and broader social-impact assessment of the Wimmera Project.

“We will integrate that work into the EES engagement program to create an efficient approach to discussions about the project’s impact and opportunities,” he said.

“From our perspective it is an exciting proposition, but again, I can’t stress enough, that the project is in its early stages, Mr Menzel said.

“We don’t want to raise anyone’s hopes, or diminish them either. The assessment process has to run its course.” 

The project is scheduled to move from a pre-feasibility study to a detailed feasibility study, DFS, state in 2021, which will then lead up to a final investment decision. 

If the project wins a tick of approval, construction and operations might start late in 2023.

Wimmera Project focuses on a WIM 100 mineral-sands deposit and the fine nature of the sand means development is likely to include both mining and processing operations.

Wimmera Project is one of four proposed projects within a 70-kilometre radius of Horsham, with the collective potential of turning the central Wimmera into a global hub for mineral-sand operations.

The closest is a WIM Resource Avonbank test pit at Longerenong. Murray Zircon is sitting on an expansive WIM 150 prospective mine at St Helens Plains east of Horsham and Donald is home to Astron’s Donald Mineral Sands project.

Mineral-sand mining produces products used in everything from paint pigments and ceramic tiles to the whitening agent in toothpaste. 

The entire February 5, 2020 edition of The Weekly Advertiser is available online. READ IT HERE!