Mineral sands

What are mineral sands?

Mineral sand deposits contain a concentrated amount of economically important minerals known as ‘heavy minerals’, which are much heavier than common sand minerals such as quartz.

Mineral sands deposits typically comprise the following minerals of economic interest:

  • zircon
  • rutile
  • leucoxene
  • ilmenite
  • monazite
  • xenotime

Zircon is rich in the element zirconium. Rutile, leucoxene and ilmenite contain titanium. Trace amounts of monazite and xenotime contain rare earth elements. Other minerals such as magnetite and garnet may also be present in mineral sands.

Victoria’s mineral sands deposits

Victoria’s mineral sands deposits occur a long way from the modern coastline. Their locations reflect the presence of former inland seas and associated coastal processes that occurred tens of millions of years ago.

The potential for mineral sands was first recognised in the Murray Basin of northwest Victoria by the Geological Survey of Victoria in 1969.

Heavy mineral sands deposits occur in the Murray and Gippsland Basins in northwest and southeast Victoria.

The Murray Basin extends from Victoria into South Australia and New South Wales where mineral sands deposits have also been identified.

Two types of mineral sands deposits are recognised in the Murray Basin. These deposits are characterised as either strandline deposits or Wimmera-style (WIM) deposits, depending on the type of rock that hosts them.

What are mineral sands used for?

Mineral sands are used for many purposes and can be found in a range of everyday household products.

Titanium minerals – which include ilmenite, leucoxene and rutile – are used as the feedstock to produce pigments for colourants in paints, paper and plastics. Titanium is also used in sunscreen and in joint replacement, such as knee and hip replacements.

Small amounts are also used in titanium metals and in welding materials.

Zircon is used in ceramic tiles and in metal casting, as well as in air and water purification systems.

More information

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

Page last updated: 08 Feb 2021