The emergence of a leader in mineral sands
In the mid-2000s, the Eramet group wanted to step up its diversification by turning to new high value-added minerals. In 2008, it invested in the titanium dioxide sector by acquiring the Norwegian company Tinfos, since renamed Eramet Titanium and Iron (ETI), and its two metallurgical plants:
- the Kvinesdal plant, dedicated to processing manganese ore – which has joined Eramet Norway, a specialist in the production of manganese alloy;
- the Tyssedal plant, a specialist in processing ilmenite (titanium ore).
As with its nickel and manganese activities, Eramet opted for a vertical integration. The Group teamed up with Australian operator Mineral Deposits Limited (MDL), which has been present in Senegal since 2004 and holds exploration rights to the Grande Côte deposit. MDL drilled more than 13,000 wells to determine the deposit’s economic potential.
Following a further period of study and engineering the company TiZir was created in 2011. The construction phase of the industrial facilities at Grande Côte Opérations began the following year.
GCO eventually entered the production phase in 2014, after investing US$800 million (including US$150 million during the ramp-up phase).
The economic benefits of the project
Over two years, GCO’s construction activities generated 2,500 jobs at their peak, representing a very significant financial boon for the region and for Senegal, in terms of salaries, purchases of services and various supplies. The training provided has increased skills and professional qualifications in the region, which had previously not been very industrial.
In August 2018, a public takeover offer for MDL resulted in Eramet acquiring 100% of TiZir shares. The entity has two sites:
- Grande Côte Opérations (GCO) in Senegal, which mines a mineral sands deposit, mainly producing ilmenite and zircon;
- the TiZir Titanium and Iron (TTI) plant in Tyssedal, Norway, which processes ilmenite to produce titanium dioxide slag.
Combining the two assets creates a vertically-integrated entity which is a major player in the mineral sands industry, enabling TTI to secure its primary source of high-quality ilmenite, while GCO is guaranteed a long-term sales outlet for a significant portion of its production.