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Mineral Sands boom predicted for Murray Basin.

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3 August 2000             00/324

MINERAL SANDS BOOM PREDICTED FOR MURRAY BASIN The Murray Basin has the potential to become a major world producer of mineral sands, according to an infrastructure planning study released today by the Minister for Industry, Science and Resources, Senator Nick Minchin.

"This is the first tri-State study to be completed under the Commonwealth's Regional Minerals Program," Senator Minchin said.

"The New South Wales, Victorian and South Australian Governments have worked with the Commonwealth and the mining industry to review the mineral potential of the region and identify the infrastructure and government services required to support a future mineral sands industry."

Senator Minchin said the Murray Basin was an emerging greenfields mineral sands province with most prospective areas currently being actively explored.

"There is potentially about 60 million tonnes of coarse-grained mineral sands in the broader Murray Basin region, with a contained value in the order of $13 billion."

The study estimated a mineral sands industry in the Murray Basin had the potential to generate about 450 permanent jobs. It predicted an additional 1100 jobs as a result of flow-on employment required to support exploration, mining and mineral separation operations in the area.

One of the first commercial mineral sands operations in the Basin will commence early next year. The Wemen project is expected to employ about 43 people, with a further 31 jobs at a new mineral separation plant at Thurla, south of Mildura.

"Creating employment in regional Australia is one of the key objectives of the Regional Minerals Program. It is hoped Wemen will be just one of a number of projects to operate successfully in the Murray Basin," Senator Minchin said.

The study showed opportunities may exist for the development of downstream processing industries in the region, including the processing of ilmenite to produce synthetic rutile and titanium dioxide pigment.

To maximise the potential of the region the study recommended upgrading road and rail links to ports and service centres; upgrading port facilities; providing extra energy supply capacity, and the upgrading telecommunications services in some areas.

"Many of the infrastructure improvements identified in the study will not only support a future mineral sands industry, but will significantly benefit the rural and regional communities and other industries already operating in the region," Senator Minchin said.

"The sustainable use of the region's water resources has also been a key aspect of the study, and I am pleased to see opportunities for the use of recycled, waste and saline water have been examined."

Senator Minchin was speaking from Mildura where he co-chaired the Principals' Committee meeting for the Murray Basin Minerals Sands Infrastructure Planning Study with Victorian Minister for Energy and Resources, Candy Broad.

Contacts:  Carolyn Coleman, Senator Minchin's office, 08 8237 7190

CMR359-00 Don Smale, Department of Industry, Science and Resources, 02 6213 7184

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