The Thunderbird mineral sands project is located on the Dampier Peninsula about 60km west of Derby, and 25km north of the sealed Great Northern Hwy approximately half way between Derby and Broome.
The Thunderbird deposit is the first major mineral sands deposit to be discovered in the Canning Basin and one of the largest mineral sands deposits to be discovered in the last 30 years.
The Thunderbird Pre-Feasibility Study (PFS), delivered in October 2015, highlighted zircon as the key value driver of the project representing approximately 60% of forecast revenue, with the remainder of revenue generated from substantial amounts of high grade sulphate ilmenite and lesser amounts of HiTi 88. The high proportion of zircon in the product suite sets Thunderbird apart from many of the world’s operating and undeveloped mineral sands projects which are dominated by lower value ilmenite.
Thunderbird has a Mineral Resource of 3.23 billion tonnes @ 6.9% HM (Measured, Indicated and Inferred @ 3% HM cut-off), including 18.6 million tonnes of zircon, 5.9 million tonnes of high-titanium leucoxene, 6.5 million tonnes of leucoxene and 61.7 million tonnes of ilmenite. The resource includes a coherent and minable high grade zone (@ 7.5% HM cut-off) of 1,050 million tonnes @ 12.2% HM (Measured, Indicated and Inferred) containing 9.7 million tonnes of zircon, 3.0 million tonnes of high-titanium leucoxene, 2.7 million tonnes of leucoxene and 35 million tonnes of ilmenite. The high in-situ valuable heavy mineral (VHM) grades for this zone of 0.93% zircon, 0.28% high-titanium leucoxene, 0.26% leucoxene and 3.3% ilmenite place Thunderbird within the top tier of HMS deposits globally.
Thunderbird is a thick and consistent surface outcropping deposit providing for a low LOM ore:waste strip ratio of 0.7:1.0. The PFS indicates the initial 7 year mine life strip ratio is below 0.2:1.0 further supporting low initial capital and mining costs. The dimensions of the deposit are approximately 6 km down dip, 4 km across strike and from 12m to 48m thick. These dimensions are very favourably to large scale mining. The deposit remains open down dip.
The Company’s Pre-feasibility Study Update, released to the ASX on 14 October 2015, indicates the project will deliver consistently strong cash margins from globally significant levels of production over a 40 year mine life.
Product quality assessment by leading industry consultants TZ Minerals International (TZMI) confirms the Thunderbird primary zircon as premium quality and suitable for the ceramic sector. The processing flow sheet includes an ilmenite upgrade step using a low temperature roast (“LTR”) to produce a high grade (56.1% TiO2) sulphate ilmenite. This will be one of the highest grade sulphate ilmenites in the global market. Smelter modelling test work also confirms the LTR ilmenite is suitable feed for producing high quality TiO2 slag (89.8% TiO2) and pig iron. The LTR ilmenite also has low levels of alkalis and chromium making it a highly attractive feedstock.
The project has a robust mine-to-port logistics chain which includes preferred proponent status for the existing bulk export facility at the Derby wharf.