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MEI Online: Plant Operation News: Australasia: August 13th 2003


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:: Minscorp Wins Grant for WA Project

Sydney-based kaolin producer Minerals Corp has won a $659,000 Ausindustry Research and Development grant for the phase one development of its Western Australian kaolin project, with a phase two grant likely to follow if the initial work is successful.

MinsCorp said it was upgrading development expenditure on the WA project now that its Skardon River project in north Queensland had reached marketing phase in order to could accelerate development of Skardon River once it becomes cash flow positing in early 2004.

Bulk trials of the WA material has already been undertaken at the Skardon River laboratory and pilot plant, as well as independent paper making and print trials in Finland, which MinsCorp described as "very successful" and had lead to further research work on processing alternatives to best suit the WA deposits.

"The WA are by world standards exceptional high brightness primary deposits," MinsCorp managing director Vic Alexander said.

"These deposits are well known in the industry, however, earlier development of these WA clays has not occurred for two principal reasons which various proponents, including Rio Tinto in the early 1990s, have seen as major challenges."

The first challenge was to source sustainable large volumes of process water, which narrows both areas of geological interest and process options for even the best sited deposits.

"The likely cost of water is a long-term availability issue, therefore the research and development for a lower water use process is most important," Alexander said.

The second challenge identified is to improve the yield of quality products at minus 2 microns particle size.

Alexander warned preliminary sampling can indicate good prospective yields, but bulk sampling could indicate otherwise.

He said the WA primary clays are essentially coarse grained and the yield below 2 microns (for higher priced products) is not attractive by international competitive standards.

"MinsCorp is in a unique position to blend the beneficial attributes of the WA coarse clays with the benefits of the fine grained Skardon River clays at an Asian blending facility in close proximity to its main prospective customers, thus effective WA yields for higher value products can be potentially significantly upgraded," Alexander said.

Further process research is required before any investment decisions can be undertaken.

Alexander said the WA geological resources are sufficient to establish a major kaolin export industry, but the processing economics will be the key to the success of WA clays.




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