Sheffield Resources has released an update regarding the ramp up of production and shipments from the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Mine in Western Australia, owned by Kimberly Mineral Sands (KMS). 

Mine production at Thunderbird has demonstrated continued month on month production gains, with total ore mined in June 2024 of approximately 825,000t. For the June 2024 quarter, total ore mined is expected to be approximately 2,200,000t, approximately 20 per cent higher than the operating rate assumed within the 2022 Bankable Feasibility Study. 

Sheffield said that modifications to the Dry Mining Unit, undertaken early in the second quarter of 2024, have enabled sustained improved availability and production performance. 

The increase in mine production resulted in increased production of concentrates with approximately 55,000t of ilmenite concentrate produced in June and 120,000t for the quarter. Production of zircon concentrate was approximately 13,000t for June and 33,000t for the quarter. 

Additional oversize material has resulted in approximately 75 per cent of the expected spiral feed delivered to the Wet Concentrator Plant (WCP). The infill drilling program of the near term mine plan continued and analysis of observed oversize streams and identification of remediation measures are underway. 

Sheffield has reported that the WCP and Concentrate Upgrade Plant (CUP) recoveries are in line with, or above design, resulting in higher than design recovery of both ilmenite and zircon concentrates. The net impact of observed higher oversize and higher WCP and CUP recovery is an approximate 85 per cent yield of expected final products from the volume of ore mined. The excess recovery continues to be weighted towards ilmenite concentrate.  

Sheffield said that plant optimisation and continuous improvement opportunities are underway with a focus on increasing zircon concentrate recovery. 

Product Shipments 

Sheffield said that it expects June 2024 to result in a record month for product shipments, with approximately 48,000t of ilmenite concentrate and 22,000t of zircon concentrate shipped in the month to 27 June.  

A further shipment of 30,000t of ilmenite concentrate commenced loading on 26 June. On an annualised basis, the projected June shipments will be close to 1,100,000t per annum.  

Total shipments for the June quarter are expected to be approximately 190,000t. 

Ore Body Reconciliation 

As of 27 June, Sheffield said that reconciliation of the resource block model confirms production and grade of Heavy Mineral Concentrate (HMC) is aligned with the resource block model. 

KMS Funding 

The increase in shipments throughout the quarter and a transition from pre-payment to typical payment terms for mineral sands has resulted in an increase in short term receivables within KMS.  

On 26 June 2024, Sheffield and Yansteel, as 50/50 owners of KMS, each contributed $7.5 million into KMS to fund working capital requirements. 

KMS expects to generate positive operating cashflows for the September 2024 quarter. 

Following the contribution to KMS, Sheffield retains approximately $10 million of cash on hand. Sheffield said that it expects to reallocate and reduce cash that previously may have been applied to current growth opportunities in favour of retaining flexibility to support KMS, alongside Yansteel, if required to do so in future. 

Sheffield Resources Executive Chair, Bruce Griffin, said that he is pleased with the further step change in mine performance in June with KMS now ahead of the expected ramp up.  

“Together with continued strong performance from the process plant and expected record export volumes in June 2024, the June performance provides a strong basis for sustained positive operating cash flow starting from the September 2024 quarter.” 

Image: Lucian Coman/shutterstock.com 

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