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Mineral Sands

Heavy minerals like rutile, ilmenite, zircon and monazite are mined in Western Australia. They are found in beach locations around the State’s western and south western coastline.

The mineral sands industry began just fifty years earlier in 1949 at Cheynes Bay on the State’s south coast.  In the same year an economic deposit of mineral sands was pegged at Koombana Bay near Capel, although production did not begin there until 1956.  By the late 1940s, mineral sands mining had become increasingly important.  Rutile, for example, had been used in electrodes for radios in World War II and the booming post-war economy created renewed demand.

Five other deposits of mineral sands - chiefly ilmenite - in the Capel area were brought into production between 1956 and 1966.  These included the Yoganup and Wannerup deposits.  A plant to produce titanium dioxide pigments from ilmenite by the sulphate process was established at Australind with Government assistance in 1963.  In 1968 the first plant began production of 'synthetic rutile' using the Becher process which had been developed in Western Australia five years earlier.

During the 1970s and 1980s further deposits of mineral sands were discovered Western Australia. First a major deposit was discovered at Eneabba in 1970, followed by one at Jurien Bay in 1971, then at Jangardup in the State’s south eastern corner in 1985 and at Beenup in 1988.  New discoveries saw production commence from Eneabba in 1974 and Cooljarloo (the Beenup deposit) in 1990.
By 1989 economic and environmental problems led to new investment in a replacement chloride process plant at Kemerton.  By 1999 the mineral sands industry was Western Australia’s sixth biggest mining industry worth $688 million to the State’s economy.

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