MDL’s primary asset is a 50% interest in the TiZir joint venture (TiZir), which owns the Grande Côte mineral sands operation in Senegal, West Africa and the TiZir titanium and iron ilmenite upgrading facility (TTI) in Tyssedal, Norway. ERAMET of France is MDL’s 50% joint venture partner in TiZir.
Grande Côte mineral sands operation
Grande Côte mineral sands operations continued to perform on a consistent basis and are benefiting from improvement in commodity prices, particularly ongoing improvements in the zircon price.
The high quality of Grande Côte mineral sands’ zircon products is attracting strong demand in the current market.
Ore mined was lower than previous quarters as average mining rates were impacted by a period of reduced power capacity. A mechanical failure in the power station reduced ore throughput for a period of four weeks while repairs were completed.
This largely accounted for the reduction in average run-time and throughput rates to 79.5% and 5,911 tph respectively. The effect of these lower rates on heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) production was partly offset by the mining of higher grade ore zones during the quarter.
On an annual basis, Grande Côte mineral sands set new production records for ore mined and HMC production of 45.1 Mt (14.9% higher than FY 2016) and 724.8 kt (18.1% higher than FY 2016) respectively.
Importantly, there was an overall improvement in the key operating parameters of run-time (2017: 80.8% compared to 2016: 73.4%) and throughput (2017: 6,373 tph compared to 2016: 6,078 tph).
These results are a direct consequence of the continued optimization initiatives implemented at Grande Côte mineral sands throughout the year.
The mineral separation plant (MSP) continued to operate steadily throughout the quarter with availability remaining
consistent with previous quarters at 95.1%. Lower HMC production led to slightly lower finished goods production in the quarter with ilmenite production down by 14.4 kt and zircon production down by 0.9 kt.
The MSP has maintained its strong performance levels over a number of years, as evidenced by the plant’s availability history (2017: 96.9% compared to 2016: 96.8% and 2015: 95.8%).
Annual finished goods production in FY 2017 set new records, with ilmenite production increasing by 18.3% to 492.4 kt and zircon production increasing by 17.0% to 61.6 kt (compared to FY 2016).
Grande Côte mineral sands sales volumes remained robust in 4Q 2017, with a new quarterly record for zircon sales of 17.6 kt shipped. Ilmenite sales continued to be strong and consistent shipment levels have now been realized in three consecutive quarters.
Consistent with increased production, sales volumes for FY 2017 were significantly higher than FY 2016, with ilmenite increasing by 12.9%, zircon by 14.3% and rutile and leucoxene (combined) by 16.3%.
Also, the introduction of the medium grade zircon sands product to Grande Côte mineral sands’ product suite in 2017 was a success, with a further 18.3 kt of finished goods sold to global customers.
With additional improvements in pricing achieved in 4Q 2017, Grande Côte mineral sands generated strong profitability and further record quarterly cash flows leading to a record cash flow performance for FY 2017.
Titanium and iron ilmenite upgrading facility
Production at TTI continued to perform to expectations, despite a slight decrease in production in 4Q 2017.
Operating time of the furnace was adversely impacted by two scheduled maintenance shutdowns in November. The impact of the planned shutdowns resulted in titanium slag production of 50.7 kt and high-purity pig iron (HPPI) production of 20.8 kt.
Despite the shutdowns completed in November, October and December production remained strong, with December
titanium slag production only 0.6 kt lower than the record production levels achieved in August 2017.
Shipments of both titanium slag and HPPI in 4Q 2017 were significantly higher than 3Q 2017 as previously delayed shipments were delivered during the quarter.
Sales volumes for FY 2017 for both titanium slag and HPPI were significantly higher than FY 2016, primarily due to the 2016 furnace shutdown and the availability of product. TTI’s products continue to be well received in the market with a significant majority of production for 2018 contracted to global customers.
With the completion of the working capital build following the furnace restart in January, TTI returned to positive cash flow in 4Q 2017.
Feature image credit: Wikipedia