Western Australia is a major supplier of mineral sands globally.
More than $15.4 million in mineral sands royalties was provided to the WA Government in 2018.
Western Australia is a leading supplier of mineral sands, producing almost a collective half of the world’s production across garnet, ilmenite, rutile and zircon. The sector is primarily focused on titanium minerals such as ilmenite, which can be sold directly, or upgraded to synthetic rutile. In 2017-18, Western Australia’s mineral sands sector sold almost 1.1 million tonnes of material valued at around $554 million.
Titanium comes from mineral sands. Named after the Greek Titans, titanium is twice as strong as steel by 45 per cent lighter. Titanium has been used to reinforce and save the ancient Parthenon in Greece.
Western Australia supplies mineral sands to 35 different countries. China, Malaysia and the United States were the State’s top three markets, accounting for more than half ($543 million) of WA’s exports in 2017–18.
The titanium minerals – ilmenite, leucoxene and rutile – are primarily used as feedstock for the production of titanium dioxide pigment, with a small amount also used in titanium metal, the manufacturing, healthcare and aerospace industries. Titanium dioxide is the most widely used white pigment because of its non-toxicity, brightness and very high refractive index. It is an essential component of consumer products such as paint, plastics and paper.
Zircon has a number of applications, principally in the manufacture of ceramic tiles ceramic wall and floor tiles, fuel cells and fibre optics.