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Mineral Sands

What Are Mineral Sands?

If you have been fortunate enough to have visited Moreton Bay Island, Stradbroke Island, Rainbow Beach, Fraser Island or Tuart Forest you would have noticed the amazing colours of the beach sand, white, brown, red and even black. This colourization occurs from concentrations of important minerals like monazite, ilmenite, rutile and zircon.

These minerals are known as heavy minerals which originally grew as crystals in igneous and metamorphic rocks. Over millions of years these rocks were eroded and weathered by heavy rainfall and fast flowing streams releasing the quartz grains and other minerals into the sea.

The waves carried these minerals back up to the beach where the heavier minerals remained in the sand creating large deposits. These deposits give the beach its colouring.

What Are Mineral Sands Used For?

The different minerals are mined and used for pigmentation in various products including cosmetics, paints, sunscreens, paper, textiles and plastics.

Medically they are used in foodstuffs, pharmaceuticals and in pacemakers and hip replacements. This is due to is non-reactive qualities which make it safe for the human body.

They are used in jewellery making, sports equipment, engineering applications, aerospace industry, and welding electrodes.

The mineral zircon is used in the manufacturing of ceramics, tiles, dinner-ware, and other industrial and chemical industries.

Where Are Mineral Sands Mined?

Currently mineral sands are mined in Australia, China, India, South Africa, Namibia and South America. Australia is the largest producer as well as being the most eco-conscious in its operations with many sites devoted to redevelopment and revegetation of mined beaches.

Conclusion

The beach provides more than summer fun of building sandcastles and half-burying family members, its sand deposits are rich in minerals that are used in many products ranging from cosmetics to aerospace equipment.

Australia is leading the world in protecting coastlines to ensure fragile ecosystems are undisturbed and Australia's mineral sands miners undertake extensive rehabilitation of mined areas.


If you would like to learn more about minerals and mining visit our Mining and Metals page.

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