Newsletter March 2016

Technical details about specific minerals and resources of Bangladesh
In this Newsletter we have included our review of the global market for mineral sands, a technical article about the characteristics and applications of Valuable heavy minerals (VHM) in Bangladesh.

We have also included information and reference to a report entitled “Characterization of the sand of Brahmaputra river of Bangladesh” which was prepared and published by BCSIR in 2012.

Baharul Alam Biswas

Market Review of Mineral Sands

With low level of demand at the end of 2015 and start of 2016 the price of zircon sand and rutile remains stable and is likely to do so for the first half of the year. Due to high stock levels and weak pricing, a number of zirconium silicate and zirconium oxychloride factories in China are choosing to remain closed until after the spring festival in February.

Iluka has shut down part of the mines; the suppliers are in wait-and-see if zircon sand and rutile prices there will be further volatility. According to Ruidow, the Spring Festival just passed by and downstream operation still in peace, most factories already stock before festival. On the other hand, although the iluka shut down the mines, but the stock is still relatively large, domestic supply is still adequate, so the price of zircon sand and Rutile also difficult to rise in short time. Currently downstream funding constraints, coupled with the market's wait-and-see, it did not appear the small peak as previous years

As of the 25th March 2016 Australia zircon sand 66% min ZrO2 price was USD 1,000-1,020/mt and Australia Rutile price was USD 790-890/mt in bulk.

This year ceramic market will remain in a downturn trend. At the same time, the ceramics factory drag debts situation is still grim, which resulted in zirconium silicate price war still won't stop.

Company News

Iluka begins investment talks on Sri Lanka ilmenite deposit
Australian mineral sands miner Iluka Resources Ltd. has said it has completed initial environmental appraisals of its Sri Lankan deposit and began talks with the government on investment and legal terms.The company, one of the world’s biggest producers of minerals sands, has a large ilmenite deposit in Puttalam on the island’s northwest coast. “The Puttalam project focus remained on government negotiations with respect to the legal and investment terms for the development and on a scoping study on the deposit, which is now complete,” Iluka said in its September quarter report. Iluka acquired access to the ilmenite deposit in Puttalam before the ethnic war but left when the war intensified, and resumed exploration activities in Sri Lanka after the war ended in 2009

China’s import volume of titanium ore increased by 54% MOM in January 2016
According to customs statistics, China's import volume of titanium ore is 216,785 tons in January 2016, an increase of 54.78% MOM and an increase of32.35% YOY. In January 2016, China imported 49,420 tons of titanium ore from India, 45,306.31 tons imports from Australia, 43,942 tons imports from Mozambique, 37,668 tons imports from Vietnam, 23,664 tons imports from Russia, 11,000 tons imported from Kenya, 3642.95 tons of titanium ore imports from South Africa, 2,061 tons imports from Sri Lanka, 40 tons imports from Tanzania, and 40 tons imports from Ukraine

Illuka Suspends operation at South Australia Zircon mine
Operations at one of the world's largest zircon projects will be suspended for up to two years in a bid to improve challenging market dynamics. Perth-based Iluka Resources, the world's largest producer of zircon, said it is preparing to suspend mining and concentrating operations at its Jacinth-Ambrosia project in South Australia's Eucla Basin. The suspension is expected to commence on April 16 for between 18 months and two years, "depending on market conditions". At peak production the Jacinth-Ambrosia operation has the ability to supply 25 to 30 per cent of global zircon demand.

Information Article

Characteristics and applications of Valuable heavy minerals (VHM) in Bangladesh - Part Two
Zircon Sand
The principal valuable heavy minerals for source of commercial interest are Rutile, Zircon, Garnet, Ilmenite and Magnetite. In particular Bangladesh could be a good source of Zircon, Rutile and Garnet, as well as a source of titano-magnetite of the steel industry. The characteristics and application of Zircon has been delineated in this newsletter. Others Valuable heavy minerals will be discussed in the following newsletter.

Titanium Feedstock

Titanium feedstock comprises both titanium bearing minerals (such as Ilmenite, leucoxene, and rutile) and materials (such as titanium slag and synthetic rutile) which have a range of TiO2 content from around 50% to 98%. Titanium is the 9th most abundant element and accounts for about 0.93% of the earth’s crust. The most important commercial titanium minerals are Ilmenite (FeO.TiO2), Rutile (TiO2) and also the alteration products of Ilmenite known as leucoxene and found associated with Ilmenite.

Bangladesh is endowed with large resources of heavy minerals which occur mainly along coastal stretches of the country and also in the sand bars of the river.

Ilmenite and Rutile along with other heavy minerals are important constituents of beach sand deposits found at the 17 placer deposits discovered by Bangladesh Atomic Energy Commission and Bay of Bengal Islands discovered by Premier Minerals Limited (PML).

The average grade of total heavy minerals in these deposits is 23% of which 26% is Ilmenite and 2.1% is rutile and 2% is leucoxene

The grade of Rutile and Ilmenite concentrates achieved at the Cox’s bazar BSMEC pilot plant is 80% and 98% respectively whereas the grade required for commercial use is 96% for Rutile and 99% for Ilmenite. So it is clear that the grade achieved in the pilot plant is significantly lower than that required for commercial uses. In 1977 the Australian experts recommended a number of additional equipments of the plant. But no foreign aid was received and such these equipments could not be procured. PML signed a MoU with BAEC with an aim to upgrade the pilot plant. PML will set up the required equipments to achieve the commercial grade.

Beach sand containing rutile and Ilmenite are usually concentrated by flotation and electrostatic method. The mixture of rutile and Ilmenite is separated into two components by a magnetic method, rutile being nonmagnetic. The most common impurity in Titanium is oxygen.

Differentiation of Ilmenite, Leucoxene and Rutile in the industry.
Mineral Density (g/cm3) Magnetic Susceptibility
Ilmenite (FeO.TiO2) 4.7 Magnetic
Leucoxene 3.5 Very slightly paramagnetic
Rutile (TiO2) 4.2 Non Magnetic

There are no cost-effective substitutes for titanium dioxide pigments. Synthetic rutile made from Ilmenite can be substituted for natural rutile. Ilmenite is found as an accessory in almost all magmatic rocks and metamorphic rock is the main source for Rutile

The existence of natural concentrates of titanium bearing minerals such and Ilmenite and rutile along with other valuable minerals was detected in the beach sand of Bangladesh. Among all minerals, Ilmenite constitutes the largest quantity of heavy minerals.

Chemical analysis has shown that Bangladesh Ilmenite contains only about 39.5% TiO2, 24.2% FeO and 33% Fe2O3.

Bangladesh Ilmenite contains only about 39.5% TiO2 and therefore requires upgradation through partial leaching and oxidation of the iron before it can be considered suitable for commercial use. It is possible to produce synthetic rutile from Bangladesh Ilmenite through the reduction leach technique. The optimum condition of reduction of Bangladesh Ilmenite by charcoal is 4 hours at 1050o c (Kurney. A S. W). Ilmenite containing less than about 55% TiO2 is not considered suitable for industrial application. The enriched Ilmenite is known as synthetic rutile and is an acceptable substitute of rutile and Ilmenite.

Of the three crystal modifications of natural titanium dioxide (rutile, anatase and brookite), rutile is the most important from an economic perspective

Crystal modification of TiO2 and their characteristics
Rutile Anatase Brookite
Formula TiO2
MOHS hardness 6-6.5 5.5-6 5.5-6
Colour Brown, foxy red, yellowish, gray beige, bluish, violet Black, auburn, yellowish brown, dark blue, grey Dark brown to green black
Magnetic properties Nonmagnetic
Electrostatic properties Conductive

Brookite is very rare and of no economic significance. Anatase can be created through transformation of rutile in placers, but is also rare in these cases. Rutile can be found as an independent mineral in almost all metamorphic facies areas.

Leucoxene, predominantly consisting of Ti oxides, is a fine, granular alteration product of titanium minerals. Leucoxene is formed through extensive weathering of Ilmenite which removes iron and increases the titanium content of the mineral grains. Although it is not a recognized mineral species, the name leucoxene has been applied to product with a TiO2 titanium content ranging from 70% to 93%.

MÜCKE & CHAUDHURI (1991) were able to very closely define the minerals of the Ilmenite → leucoxene conversion series in a mineralogical and crystallographic context: Ilmenite (FeTiO3) → “leached out” Ilmenite → Pseudorutile (Fe2Ti3O9) → “leached out” Pseudorutile (FeTi3O6(OH)3) → Leucoxene.

Extensive beach sand concentrations of either rutile or Ilmenite are situated in Australia and India, while lesser deposits occur in the coasts of Japan, Malaya, Ceylon, Florida, New Zealand, and many other countries.


Rutile is mainly used for production of TiO2 pigments for welding rod coatings and manufacturing tinanium metals. Rutile is also used in rubber industry, in leather dressing and finishing, in ceramic and porcelain enamel industry and in the manufacture of electrical insulators.

Ilmenite is a source of TiO2 and is used for making TiO2 pigments. High purity iron can be made from Ilmenite by reducing FeO of Ilmenite with anthracite whereby titanium dioxide rich slag (from which pigment grade TiO2 can be obtained) and high purity iron be obtained. This high purity iron can be used for production of ductile iron castings.

Because of its non-toxic nature, it is used in cosmetics, pharmaceuticals, and even added to foodstuffs as well as in toothpastes to improve their brightness. Titanium dioxide is used in the manufacture of many sunscreen lotions and creams because of its non-toxicity and ultra violet absorption properties. The lightness, strength and durability of the metal make it an essential metal for the aerospace industry.

Synthetic rutile is used for coating welding electrodes as flux component and for manufacture of titanium tetrachloride which in turn is used in making titanium sponge. Synthetic rutile is also used as ingredient of special abrasives.

Ilmenite sands are consumed in constructing heavy shielding blocks for reactor core containment and other nuclear installations. The research reactor built at AERE, Savar had utilized tons of Ilmenite sands in shielding the reactor core. Installation of other such big radiation sources in the country in future may also consume heavy mineral sands.

Titania pigment is used in paper mills to have good quality bright paper. Rutile and leucoxene may be used in local paper mills to manufacture glossy papers like offset and art paper. Karnafully Paper Mills Limited, the biggest paper mill in the country consumes rutile as a filler and brightness agent in production of good quality paper. If proper technology in communicated to entrepreneurs even wider application of titania pigment would be welcomed.

Bangladesh being a mineral deficient country must utilize all the possible source of raw materials for its development. The major rivers passing across the country carry huge quantity of minerals to the shore of Bangladesh. These minerals can be a good source of raw materials for our industry.

External Article

Bangladesh is highly influenced by the three great rivers the Ganges (entering in Bangladesh as the Padma river), the mighty River Brahmaputra-Jamuna and Meghna with a dense network by it’s’ tributaries and distributaries and connecting channels that form the river system in the biggest delta of the world. Seasonal shifting of river channels, bank erosion and deposition of sediments are the characteristics features of the River Brahmaputra, the Jamuna river and its tributaries.

Coleman (1969) carried out the detailed channel and sedimentary process of the Brahmaputra River. The Bangladesh Water Development Board also studied the sediment transport capacity of this river in 1972. Mr. Aminur Rahman et al. conducted fieldwork to collect samples from the sand bars and point bars of the Brahmaputra-Jamuna River and its tributaries. The report entitled “Characterization of the sand of Brahmaputra river of Bangladesh” was prepared and published by BCSIR in 2012. This study indicates the presence of economic minerals like zircon, garnet and a little amount of rutile.

The aim of this paper is to study on the mineralogy, morphology, magnetic property and composition of the sand of Brahmaputra River, Bangladesh

The link of this paper has been given below:

Image of Zircon rich sand between the beach and marine drive at Teknaf. This is close to the high tide area were back-dune restoration and rehabilitation is critical for prevention of sea erosion.




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