Ironsands: A product in demand

Ironsand is a generic term used to describe naturally occurring magnetite (iron oxide) sand within detrital deposits. It is increasingly in demand as an alternative iron ore feedstock for use in ironmaking as reserves of high-grade, conventional hematite iron ore diminish. Unlike conventional hard rock magnetite, the traditional ore alternative to hematite, ironsand concentrate can be extracted at comparatively low cost as it is predominantly unconsolidated. Chinese steelmakers in particular are keenly interested in acquiring ironsand concentrates to blend with either imported or their own expensive feedstock.

Ironsand (titanomagnetite) is a compound of the elements iron, titanium and oxygen. The presence of titanium means that it contains slightly less iron than magnetite concentrate produced from hard rock sources, and accordingly may realise slightly lower prices. However, this is more than offset by the comparatively low capital and operating costs associated with ironsand production.

Ironsand deposits are known worldwide, but not all are equally suitable for iron making due to presence of various critical impurities, or the need for some high-energy grinding to adequately liberate the titanomagnetite. For the past 40 years, the world’s major source of ironsand production has been New Zealand, Fiji’s near neighbour. Amex’s Mba Delta ironsand has similar chemical and physical characteristics to the New Zealand material, placing it at the forefront of developing projects as an alternative ore source for Asian steelmakers.

Magnetite also has other applications, in addition to iron and steel making. The Company continues to explore these markets, in association with an experienced marketing entity who specialise in alternative niche markets that are not reliant on the iron ore price.