Western Cape economy to get boost from new mineral sands mine on West Coast

From left to right – Mark Caruso (Chairman of MRC), Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and Andrew Lashbrooke (CEO of MRC). From left to right – Mark Caruso (Chairman of MRC), Mineral Resources Minister Susan Shabangu and Andrew Lashbrooke (CEO of MRC).

Mineral Commodities Limited (ASX: MRC) recently celebrated the official opening of its fully-funded Tormin mineral sands mine project situated on the West Coast, approximately 400kms north of Cape Town.

Mineral Resources Minister, Susan Shabangu, addressed guests at the ceremony to mark the important milestone of the first new mineral sands operation to commence in the Western Cape since Namakwa Sands. The Tormin mine opening is a major achievement for MRC, an Australian-based company, as the mineral sands project is strongly positioned for significant growth in the South African mining sector. It is set to inject more than R1bn a year into the Western Cape economy over the next five years.

The Minister welcomed the investment by the company, which demonstrates sustained confidence in the South African mining industry.

“I am also encouraged by the strong presence of local women in technical operations, including geologists and metallurgists at the mine. This shows that women are taking their rightful place in the mainstream economy.”

The mine features a substantial zircon-rich beach resource which also provides ilmenite, rutile and garnet minerals. Dwindling global supply and an ever-increasing demand for zircon and rutile has made Tormin an extremely attractive world-class resource. Minerals sourced at the Tormin mine will be used in the manufacturing of ceramics and in the production of paint, paper and plastic.

Andrew Lashbrooke, MRC’s Chief Executive, commented on the accomplishments of the mine operation so far, “This project is fully funded and under budget. It remains on track to pay back its investment by the end of June 2014, a feat few mining projects anywhere in the world can emulate.”

“Since the mine developments started in April 2013, we paid particular attention to ensure that we met key objectives on time and under budget to reach today’s milestone.”

Enterprise and community development

The Tormin mine is contributing to the economic transformation of a number of the poor communities in the surrounding area by creating employment for unskilled and semi-skilled workers.

“During the mine’s construction phase, 65 jobs were created and up to a 160 people will be employed during the mine’s existence. We expect that an additional 400 indirect jobs would result from the expansion of the transport and other feeder systems,” said Lashbrooke.

The mine’s expected life span is five years and MRC is confident that the offshore area, the source of the minerals, will replenish the beach and extend the mine’s life by an additional five years.

Production update

MRC recently loaded its first ultra-high grade zircon and rutile concentrate, produced at the Tormin mine, for shipment to its offtake partner, Wogen Pacific, and anticipates ramping up towards 4,000 tonnes a month during March/April. In addition to the concentrate product, the mine has to date produced 9,000 tonnes of ilmenite concentrate and 12 000 tonnes of garnet concentrate.

“The cost of fully processed zircon and rutile from Tormin is almost 25% less than that of our larger competitors. If we are not the lowest-cost producer in the world, we are among the lowest 10% on the cost curve,” concluded Lashbrooke.

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