Tronox processes ilmenite into a rutile substitute by upgrading the titanium dioxide content of ilmenite to produce synthetic rutile.
This occurs through a process of reduction, aeration and acid leaching at the synthetic rutile plant located at Chandala.
Some synthetic rutile is exported overseas and the remainder is transferred to Tronox’s Kwinana Pigment Plant to be converted into titanium dioxide.
Zircon is separated from heavy mineral concentrate in the dry mill located at Tronox’s Chandala operations.
Zircon’s resistance to abrasion and high temperatures make it a key ingredient in a number of ceramic applications, such as glazes used in tiles and sanitary ware. It is also used in refractory applications to protect the interior of high temperature furnaces and for the casting of metals into various products.
Another important application is the production of a broad range of zirconia chemicals, which then in turn have a diverse range of end uses in ceramics, refractory, catalysts, coating and paper related products.
Some zircon is used as an x-ray filter and as a polishing agent in the production of silicon wafers for the manufacture of semiconductor components such as integrated circuits (computer chips).
Rutile is also separated from heavy mineral concentrate in the dry mill located at Tronox’s Chandala operations.
Tronox’s rutile is predominantly used as a feedstock for the manufacture of Titanium Dioxide pigment and as an ingredient for the flux used in the production of stick and wire based welding electrodes. Other applications are the manufacture of asbestos free brake pads, ceramic glaze for roofing tiles and the production of ferrotitanium.
Rutile can also be a primary feedstock for the production of titanium metal, which is then used in a number of applications which make use of titanium’s light weight, high strength and corrosion resistance, such as aircraft components and surgical implants.
At our South African operations, we melt and reduce ilmenite to produce titanium slag and pig iron. Titanium slag is a high-grade feedstock, which is a key input in the production of titanium dioxide pigments. It is used in both the chloride and sulfate processes.
Ilmenite is a naturally occurring mineral comprised primarily of iron titanium dioxide, as well as other elements such as magnesium and manganese. It is highly magnetic and can be isolated from other minerals by magnetic separators and other processes. Ilmenite can be further separated from iron through a smelting process to make chloride-process titanium slag or sulfate-process titanium slag. It can also be converted into synthetic rutile. All are used as feedstock for the production of titanium dioxide pigment and titanium metals.
When creating synthetic rutile, Tronox uses coal to heat the ilmenite extracted from mineral sands. The result is a combination of reduced ilmenite and a residue called char.
Tronox separates the char and packages it for sale as activated carbon.
Once considered waste, activated carbon now has many applications, from use in water and air filters, to its use in the de-colorization of olive oil and wine.
Similarly, staurolite is separated from heavy mineral concentrate in the dry mill at Chandala.
Staurolite is a relatively hard, inert mineral with similar properties to garnet, making it suitable as an abrasive sand blasting media. In this application it is directed at a metal surface using compressed air through a nozzle, so that the grains of staurolite cut through and remove any paint, rust or other residual coatings. The cleaned surface is then ready for painting or welding as part of industrial plant maintenance and construction activities.
The abrasive nature of staurolite allows it to be used as a cutting media for water jet cutting, where the mineral is sprayed in a fine jet of water at high pressure so that, for example, it cuts through a sheet of metal. The resulting edge is very smooth and the cutting itself can be moved via a robotic arm to follow a template or pattern. This allows the cutting of quite intricate shapes from sheets of glass, metal, plastic, stone or other materials.
Leucoxene is separated from mineral concentrate at Chandala’s dry mill and is recovered as separate lower and higher TiO2 containing fractions. Leucoxene 85 (the larger volume, but with the lower TiO2 content of the two fractions) is used as a feedstock for the production of Titanium Dioxide pigment. The higher TiO2 containing fraction, Leucoxene 92 is sold as an ingredient for the manufacture of welding electrode flux, and in a powdered form where it is used as a pigment and glaze material in the production of traditional roofing tiles in Japan.
Pig Iron, a co-product of titanium slag, is recovered from ilmenite smelters and sold to foundries for the casting of automotive and engineering components. Our pig iron is produced in smelter plants in Australia and S. Africa.