Fall 2006 Term Projects
Last Updated:  December 8th, 2006

DuPont Titanium Mining, Production, and Reclamation

This project coordinated by Mr. Smith investigates the mining and  production of titanium oxide products from northeast Florida heavy minerals contained in beach sand. The project also investigates the various methods utilized over the years to reclaim the land following mining. Students: (left to right) Laurel Robinson (Environmental Engineer) and Mackenzie Clothier (Mining Engineer)

Titanium Mining


A dredge removes sand from a million year old beach along the 'Trail Ridge' (roughly parallel to Route 301) in northeastern Florida

Following clearing the land, , the top soil is removed and the dredge removes sand from a layer that has a high concentration of 'heavy minerals'

Mr. David Wright, our guide from DuPont, shows Mackenzie where to take a sample of the 'heavy mineral' rich sand in front of the dredge as Laurel and Mr. Clothier observe.

Mackenzie takes a sample of the 'heavy mineral' rich sand with the 'wet mill' (the next step in the processing in the background).

 

(from left to right) Mr. Wright (Dupont), Mr. Clothier, Laurel (Environmental Engineer), and Mackenzie (Mining Engineer)

 

The 'slurry' (water and 'heavy mineral' rich sand mixture) is pumped from the dredge to the 'wet mill' where the 'heavy minerals' are removed and the quartz (silica rich) sand (tailings) are released back into the pond.

At the 'wet mill', the 'slurry' is processed through a series of 'spirals'.  The 'heavy minerals' are collected from the inside of the 'spiral' while the lighter 'tailings' (mostle quartz) is thrown to the outside of the 'spiral'

Mackenzie takes a sample of the 'tailings'.

 


The 'slurry' is pumped from the 'wet mill' pond area to a collection area called the 'stacker'. "slurry' pressure is maintained by pumping stations along the way.

The 'slurry' is allowed to air dry at the 'stacker'. Mackenzie is collecting a sample with the 'stacker' in the background.
 

Titanium Production



After air drying in the 'stacker' pile, the heavy mineral concentrate is taken to the DuPont 'dry mill' production facility located near Starke, Florida.

The first step at the production facility is to wash the heavy mineral concentrate to remove organic materials.

After washing, the heavy mineral concentrate is allowed to air dry and then is put into a 'hopper' where it enters the 'dry mill' production facility.  The heavy mineral concentrate is then dried further by heating.

Next, the heavy mineral concentrate is processed where the conductive materials (titanium oxide minerals) are separated from the non-conductive heavy mi.nerals (zircon and staurolite). 

The 'titanium oxide product' is a mixture of the minerals Illmentite, Leucoxine, and Rutile. Mr. Wright shows the girls some of the 'titanium oxide product' during processing at the dry mill.  Titanium oxide has many uses including paint and cosmetics.

The non-conductive heavy minerals are primarily Zircon and Staurolite. Staurolite is magnetic so can be separated ftrom the Zircon by a Staurolite Magnet (rougher). The staurolite product is used primarily as an abrasive in 'sand blasting' (paint removal).

Next, our tour moved on to the facility which produces Zircon products.

The Zircon is heated to improve its quality for use in the ceramics industry.
The titanium oxide products are normally shipped to customers in rail cars.

 


 


 The Staurolite and Zircon products are sent to customers in 'smaller' packages!

Land Reclamation Following Mining


40 years ago, before current procedures were used, mined land was slow to recover, if at all.
But now, the top soil is moved out of the way before mining and returned back to its original position after mining.  This top soil contains the seeds of the original grasses.  Only pine trees need to be planted. The types of trees that are planted are determined by the land owners, usually lumber companies.
Usually, the palmettos do not return making the land less susceptible to damaging forest fires and very desirable for deer and other animals while the pine forest is maturing ( takes about 20 years).  The pine trees grow faster and bigger in mined land in comparison to unmined land.  As a result, leasing the mineral rights for mining benefits the suitability of the land for lumber production.
Ponds can be created in mined land if desired.  This is often done to provide water for heliocopters while fighting  forest fires.

But, it is also possible to improve the land if desired.  This beautiful wetland was created by DuPont to demonstrate this point. 


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