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Mining & Resources

The perfect spot for a mineral sands separation facility, but no mine in sight

1 Mar 2024, by Amy Sarcevic

At conferences, Brett Hoyle of Currumbin Minerals, often gets asked why his company developed a mineral sands separation plant hundreds of kilometres from the nearest mine.

His answer is surprisingly simple.

“Firstly, it’s the legacy of our founder, Alfred Newman, who had a passion for black sand on local beaches, back in 1929. It’s a theme we wanted to keep running as we’ve scaled up over the years,” he said.

Secondly, the company has an innovative business model, only made possible by the area’s unique development plans.

Currently, the Gold Coast is the only place in Australia, where extensive construction is permitted on its coastline – and Currumbin minerals is squeezing every ounce of value from the construction waste.

“The Gold Coast is under development in a big way and all the 40-50 kilometers worth of building along the main strip is happening on dunal sands, which contain very good rare earth and critical mineral content,” said Brett.

“The minerals wash onto the shores from the earth’s crust and Great Dividing Range. A lot of it comes in at the top end of Fraser Island, but most of that is national park and can’t be accessed.

“Thanks to the construction here on the Gold Coast, we can reap it, not from mining activities, but from agreements with the construction firms and developers.

“If it weren’t for us, they would likely dump it or put into concrete plants at a low value. But we work with them to make sure none of it goes to waste.”

An ongoing theme

This zero waste mindset infiltrates into each of the company’s revenue streams, where a “support Australian mining” ethos is also in place.

In its high tech laboratory, Currumbin Minerals has all the equipment needed to help fledgling minerals sands companies get off the ground and beneficiate their resources to the highest degree.

“We’ve got tools for gravity through to wet spiral separation, wet table facilities, and electro-static and magnetic equipment.

“Essentially, we can clean anything up and help give companies a final answer on whether their mine will work.

“And this all stems from our belief in supporting Australian mining.”

The company’s belief is a long-held one, tracing back to Mr Newman’s early experiences in 1929.

After sending sand off to the USA for testing, Newman was left waiting for a response that would never come; and so began pegging out mines sites on local land.

“Ever since, the Newmans have believed that separation is an important value add to Australia’s mineral sands trade.”

Alfred’s four sons later had the opportunity to buy an operation on the Currumbin Creek in 1964 and, in that same year, registered the company.

While it has since scaled bigger heights, Currumbin Minerals has never forgotten its family roots and ethos, and believes it is, in turn, supported by its ‘Australian mining family’.

“We get supported by other mining companies that are just doing a light signal – processing minerals well below their worth.

“We can get that supply mineral and value add. It’s something we have invested millions in and we are immensely proud of,” Brett said.

In addition to its direct work with Australian mining companies, Currumbin Minerals is also proud to support local suppliers. Almost its entire facility is kitted out with locally sourced equipment.

“Excluding our water pumps, all of our equipment is manufactured here in Australia. Our electrostatic machines were built in Brisbane. Our electromagnetic equipment was built originally in Lismore, now on the Gold Coast. Supporting local trade and local people is part of our core business ethics.”

Deriving value

While many aspects of its business approach are replicable, Brett admits the model itself is likely not.

“Because of the protection zone around the coast of Australia by the Department of Environment, the Gold Coast is the only place nationally where you can derive minerals from the sand dunes.

“You can’t go and set up a mine on coastal sands, so construction waste is the only avenue to utilise the precious content of the dunes. And the Gold Coast is the only place currently allowing this type of construction.”

That said, Brett believes his company’s ethos is something everyone can learn from.

“Australia needs to beneficiate its resources more – it will give us more employment and better returns,” he said.

Likewise, he hopes more Australian companies will invest in their own technologies and understand that there is a “better way forward”. Having invested millions in its laboratory, his company is currently leading the country’s technology run.

“When you are building a mine site, you need to know what you are doing daily, and you can’t rely on that tech or chemical knowledge being given to you.

“That is why we’ve invested heavily in a lab – it gives us critical information about design, build and processing and, in turn, we’ve earned a worldwide reputation.

“Customers know that what we are selling is exactly what they will get we can no longer keep up with production.”

Further insight

Sharing more about his company’s success story, Brett will present at the upcoming Minerals Sands & Rare Earths Conference, hosted by Informa Connect.

This year’s event will be held 19-20 March at the Crown Perth.

Learn more and register your tickets here.





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