Mineral sands production from Kenmare Resources’ Moma titanium minerals mine, in Mozambique, continued to increase in the third quarter ended September 30, as the mine resumed steady operations following the flood damage to the power lines and industrial action in the first half of the year, the company reported recently.
Kenmare mined 9.05-million tons of ore at a grade of 4.54% over the three months, compared with 9-million tons of ore at a grade of 4.29% in the third quarter of the prior year. Despite dry mining operations having been suspended in the second quarter as a cost reduction measure, tons mined remained flat as a result of improved dredge utilisation. Heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) production increased 7% to 339 600 t in the quarter under review, compared with 316 500 t in the third quarter of 2014, principally as a result of increased grade and dredger throughputs.
Production of ilmenite increased 11% to 244 800 t over the three months, while zircon production decreased 9% to 13 300 t, owing to some nonmagnetic stockpiles that had been processed in the third quarter of the prior year. A series of three zircon improvement programmes were under way and were expected to show benefits as they were commissioned between now and the first quarter of 2016. “A recently completed project is expected to result in increased production of secondary zircon as a consequence of zircon recovery from previous reject streams.
“Separately, following cost and benefit analysis, another project has resulted in a reduction of total primary zircon volume in favour of a large increase in the proportion of the higher-grade of the two primary zircon products,” said the company. Sales of total finished products were up 4% to 190 000 t in the third quarter, comprising 178 900 t of ilmenite, 10 000 t of zircon and 1 100 t of rutile. “I am pleased to announce record quarterly production of HMC and ilmenite in the third quarter of the year. “Increased production, in combination with the progress we have been making to reduce absolute cash operating costs, is predicted to result in a significant commensurate reduction in our unit operating costs for the second half of the year,” commented MD Michael Carvill.
Kenmare reported further that power reliability and stability had continued to improve in the third quarter, helping to increase the utilisation levels at the mine, which contributed to higher production volumes. State-owned power firm Electricidade de Moçambique had, meanwhile, been investing in the power line infrastructure to increase capacity on the line. These projects continued to make progress during the quarter, with all three phases planned for delivery between now and early next year. “These projects equate to a 50% increase in the power line capacity and will help to provide a more stable power supply to the mine, with additional capacity to allow for increased power needs in northern Mozambique,” said Kenmare.
Looking to the market, Kenmare said conditions for titanium feedstocks had remained challenging in the third quarter, with overcapacity in global pigment markets driving further competition for market share and, consequently, reduced pricing. All evidence suggested that Chinese domestic ilmenite production continued to decline, with reduced iron-ore mining economics as a consequence of the falling iron-ore price. “This has led to a drawdown of ilmenite inventories in China, further evidenced by a reduction in port inventories. However, while the volume of Chinese titanium feedstock imports has been increasing in recent months, this market dynamic has yet to result in an improvement for imported ilmenite prices. “There was some moderate softening of zircon prices through the quarter due to positioning for sales volumes by some producers. Offtake support from our customers remains strong and we continue to sell all of our zircon,” the group outlined.