Balranald Mineral Sands Project is a rutile-rich deposit located in southwestern New South Wales (NSW), Australia.

The project, being developed by critical minerals company Iluka Resources, has secured all primary environmental approvals.

The company submitted a draft Environmental Impact Statement (EIS) to the Department of Environment in February 2016. The final EIS was submitted in July 2016 and it was approved in January 2017.

Iluka received the approval to undertake mining at the site via a Modification of Consent (MOD) in 2016.

The company announced the Final Investment decision on the project in February 2023 following the completion of the definitive feasibility study (DFS) in late 2022.

The construction of the project will take 18 months, with the first production expected in the first half of 2025. The development of Balranald mineral sands will involve a capital cost of A$480m ($320m).

The project is expected to produce 1 million tonnes per annum (mtpa) of run-of-mine ore and up to 0.5mtpa of heavy mineral concentrate (HMC).

The initial mine life is estimated to be 9.5 years.

Balranald project location details

The Balranald project is located in the Riverina district of south-western NSW.

There are two linear mineral sands deposits called West Balranald and Nepean deposits, situated around 12km and 66km northwest of the town of Balranald, respectively.

The project area is connected to the Sturt Highway via Balranald-Ivanhoe Road.

Geology and Mineralisation

The FID entails the development of the rutile and zircon rich West Balranald deposit. It also hosts material quantities of rare earth minerals.

The deposit is located in a shallow, intra-cratonic Cainozoic basin called the Murray Basin.

The sedimentary sequence within the basin is formed as a result of repeated marine incursions from the southwest, eventually resulting in deposition of the Late Miocene to Late Pliocene Loxton Parilla Sands (LPS).

The sediments, deposited in shallow marine, littoral and fluvial conditions, contains the Murray Basin mineral sand deposits. The West Balranald deposit is situated within the LPS.

West Balranald mineral resource estimate

The measured mineral resource estimate for West Balranald is estimated to be 5.9 material tonnes (Mt) at 44% Heavy Mineral (HM) and 8% Clay.

The deposit’s indicated and inferred stand at 26.3Mt at 33% HM and 6% Clay, and 4.5Mt at 26% HM and 6% Clay, respectively.

The West Balranald strand was around 29km long when interpreted above a 3% HM cut-off.

Mining and Processing

As the deposit is located approximately 60m below surface, Iluka assessed the potential of developing West Balranald through remotely operated underground mining (UGM) technology.

The feasibility study confirmed the technical and commercial viability of the UGM technology. The internally developed technology will enable Iluka access ore bodies previously categorised as uneconomic, and it will also cause less environmental disturbance and will be less carbon intensive compared to traditional extraction techniques.

At Balranald, the heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) will be separated at the site into magnetic (ilmenite) and non-magnetic (zircon, rutile and rare earths) streams.

The products would be transported from the site by road to a port in Victoria, from where it will be shipped to Iluka’s processing and refining assets located in Western Australia.

The underground mining will utilise Mining Unit Plant (MUP), Mobile Mining Plant (MMP), subsurface and surface ancillary equipment.

Two MUP pairs will supply around 87 tonnage per hour (tph) each to the wet concentrator plant (WCP).

MUP pairs will have separate panels with identical layouts and infrastructure.

Mined material will be pumped from the MMP area to the processing plant, while sand tails will be transported back to mining pits.

Fines tails and iron sulphate tails will be used to fill underground mined voids.

The construction of the mine will involve a workforce of around 250 people. In the operational phase, the project will employ 270 people including contractors.

Balranald Production

The critical minerals development will produce around 60 kilotonne per annum (ktpa) of rutile, 50ktpa of zircon and 50-70ktpa synthetic rutile.

The production will also include 4ktpa of rare earth concentrate (REC), and 150ktpa of sulphate ilmenite.


The Balranald project has selected appropriate processing equipment for different process functions. The modular Wet Concentrator Plant (WCP) will feature the Rougher Head Feed, oversize removal, spiral circuits, flotation plant, magnetic separation and UCC.

Other process plant and non-process infrastructure will include product stacking, rougher head feed stockpiling and reclaiming, tails thickening, fines and iron sulphide storage dams, reagent storage and distribution.

The project infrastructure will also include water supply, storage, distribution and waste water treatment, power supply and distribution, instrumentation and controls, IT and communications and service building.

Contractors Involved

In October 2021, Worley won the definitive feasibility study (DFS) contract for Balranald Mineral Sands Project.

The design of the process plant involved several entities including Worley, Mineral Technologies and Minsol.

SGM Environmental was contracted for the preparation of soil survey report and biophysical strategic agricultural land assessments.

As of February 2023, the selection process for an Engineering, Procurement and Construction Management (EPCM) contracting arrangement is underway.