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:: Rio Tinto Starts Ilmenite Production in Madagascar
Rio Tinto's subsidiary, Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium, has begun production of ilmenite at its QMM mineral sands operation at Fort Dauphin in Madagascar.
The development (owned 80 per cent by Rio Tinto and 20 per cent by the Madagascar government) began as an exploration project in the 1980s and is the second largest investment on the island.
Ilmenite from Madagascar will be shipped for processing at Rio Tinto's metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy, Quebec, which has upgraded its facilities to process this product. The total cost of the investment in Madagascar and Canada is US$1.2 billion.
Madagascar ilmenite contains 60 per cent titanium dioxide making it higher quality than most other global sources. It will be upgraded in Canada to produce a new 90 per cent titanium dioxide chloride slag suitable for global titanium feedstock markets where it is used in the manufacture of pigments for the paint and plastics industries.
Rio Tinto chief executive Tom Albanese commented: "This first production is a major landmark in a project which, notwithstanding many complex challenges, has been described as a model for future projects in Africa and elsewhere in the developing world."
Harry Kenyon-Slaney, managing director of Rio Tinto Iron & Titanium, added: "The project will bring enormous benefits to the region. The floating dredge and wet plant, successfully launched in November, and the dry mill launched in December are producing concentrate at target quality. We are still in the early commissioning stage but expect to increase production over the coming months."
The current mine site is at Mandena, to the north of Fort Dauphin, and production in phase one will eventually ramp up to 750,000 tonnes per annum. Later phases will be at Ste Luce and Petriky and there is potential to expand production to 2.2 million tonnes a year.
The first shipment of ilmenite to Quebec for processing is expected in March 2009, when work is completed on the new port of Ehoala to the south of Fort Dauphin.
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