WA Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project progresses towards construction

Monica Gameng   |   April 23, 2022
Project site entrance (cr: Sheffield Resources Limited)

The Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project in Western Australia’s Kimberley region is progressing towards construction as it secures approximately $160 million in funding from the North Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF). 

The NAIF loan will form part of the $300 - $320 million funding required to develop the Thunderbird project. Project developer Kimberley Mineral Sands Pty Ltd (KMS) – a 50:50 joint venture between Sheffield Resources Limited and YGH Australia Investment Pty Ltd – will now seek to complete the project financing through a third-party commercial loan facility to fully fund the first stage of construction. 

“Sheffield is extremely pleased by the level of support shown by NAIF and the Federal Government for the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project. The NAIF commitment will enable KMS to finalise project funding requirements for Thunderbird and progress construction activities, with the aim of delivering first production in early 2024,” Sheffield Executive Chair Bruce Griffin said. 

Stage 1 construction is anticipated to support about 350 jobs with a drive in, drive out operational workforce within the Kimberley region. The project is also expected to support a further 350 jobs across the State over Thunderbird’s 36-year mine life. 

In addition, the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project will deliver significant benefits to local Kimberley communities through several business and contracting opportunities. 

Last month, GR Engineering Services Limited announced that the company has been awarded a $179.5 million engineering, procurement and construction (EPC) contract by Thunderbird Operations Pty Ltd – a wholly owned subsidiary of KMS. 

This contract award will get GR Engineering to undertake the delivery of a mineral processing plant as well as associated facilities for the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project. Until full notice to proceed has been issued, the company will begin limited work on site ahead of final investment decision that is expected in mid-2022. 

“We are extremely pleased to have been engaged to perform a key role in the development of the world-class Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project. GR Engineering has been associated with the project over a number of years and it is exciting to see this project progress to the next stage of development. GR Engineering looks forward to KMS emerging as a significant new global producer in the mineral sands sector,” GR Engineering Managing Director Geoff Jones said. 

The Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project is located in the Kimberley region, approximately 70 kilometres west of Derby and 30 kilometres north of the sealed Great Northern Highway that joins Derby and Broome. 

thunderbird-project-locationProject location (source: Sheffield Resources Limited)

The project is going to be developed in two stages, with Stage 1 mining and processing feed rate projected at 1,085 dry tonnes per hour at the Wet Concentrate Plant. On the other hand, the second stage will double capacity to 2,170 tonnes per hour at Thunderbird’s fifth year of operations. 

Over its 36-year mine life, Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project is estimated to produce 1.4Mtpa of zircon and ilmenite concentrates. 

Source: Sheffield Resources Limited (1, 2); Australian Mining; ABC News; GR Engineering Services 

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Monica Gameng
As Felix's Marketing Assistant since 2015, Monica is responsible for researching and sharing new and progressing projects within the construction and mining sectors in Australia. It's no surprise that Monica has her finger on the pulse of Australian major projects given she has produced more than 1,000 posts. She truly is an industry expert.
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