Mineral sands

Mineral sands contain suites of economically important minerals of high specific gravity known as ‘heavy minerals’. These include minerals rich in titanium, zirconium and rare earth elements that are found in very low concentrations in a variety of igneous and metamorphic rocks. However, because they are chemically and physically resistant to weathering and have a high specific gravity, they tend to accumulate in placer deposits in river channels and along coastlines.

Beach sands contain the most important accumulations of heavy minerals. Wave action deposits sand on beaches and the heavy minerals are concentrated when backwash carries lighter minerals such as quartz back into the sea. Onshore winds that preferentially blow lighter grains inland can also concentrate heavy minerals at the front of coastal dunes. Old (fossil) shorelines, known as strandlines, which occur some distance inland, can also be a source of heavy minerals.

Mineral sands in Victoria

Victoria’s mineral sands deposits are considered extremely competitive in a global context, in terms of size, grade and assemblage.

Victoria has extensive deposits of mineral sands including:

  • titanium minerals (rutile and ilmenite)
  • zircon
  • monazite and
  • xenotime, containing yttrium.

Victoria’s mineral sand endowment includes an estimated 350 million tonnes (Mt) of coarse grained, strandline deposits and a further three billion tonnes of fine grained, WIM style deposits.

The coarse grained, strandline deposits are currently mined mainly for their zircon and rutile contents.

Proven prospectivity

In 2011, Victoria had 21.8% of Australia’s Economic Demonstrated Resource (EDR) of ilmenite, 33.8% of its zircon and 42.3% of its rutile.

In addition, in 2011 Victoria had Australia’s largest proportion of inferred resources of ilmenite, rutile and zircon at 48.1%, 62.9% and 74.9% respectively.

On a global scale, Australia’s EDR of rutile and zircon was ranked number one at 53% and 50% respectively, while its EDR of ilmenite was ranked second after China.

Exploration and development opportunities

Most mineral sands activity is focused on the Murray Basin in the State’s west. There are exploration opportunities in Victoria in the Murray, Gippsland and Otway basins. Gippsland is an emerging province with inferred resources already being identified.

Several companies are active in mineral sands exploration in Victoria. New entrants are encouraged to monitor licence renewals and are able to negotiate licence transfers or seek joint ventures with existing holders.

Victoria’s online geospatial tool, GeoVic, can assist with identifying vacant ground.

Did you know?

  • Victoria has proven resources whose size, grade and assemblages are globally significant.
  • Victoria has an established mineral sands industry with a centrally located mineral separation plant.
  • There are exploration opportunities in Victoria in the Gippsland Basin or to rework ground to explore for both coarse and fine grained deposits in the Murray Basin.

More information

More information on mineral sands in Victoria is available in the below factsheet.

Page last updated: 22 Oct 2019