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Project GEO

Geotechnical Engineering
Earth Science Outreach

Dr. Nick Hudyma
The University of North Florida
Bo Smith
Terry Parker High School

Spring 2005 Term Projects

Isolation of Heavy Minerals from Northeast Florida Beach Sand
  Last Updated: May  11th, 2005 (edited Spetember 14th, 2009)

 "The Miscievious Miners"
Michelle Page (left) & Ashlie Grasa (right) who had to leave the project when she moved away from Jacksonville.

Hi guys! My name is Michelle, the Mischievous Miner and I have been working on the Isolation of  Heavy Minerals project. This project is based on the process of mining heavy minerals such as titanium. Many of the following pictures are from a fieldtrip to Iluka Mining resource facility. These pictures are of the variations in mineral deposition along shoreline and the deposition on the land undergoing the mining process. During the trip, I learned many things about mining and the process of it. I also learned that mining has actually gone on here, in Jacksonville. Mining is actually very interesting. Minerals mined are used in common everyday products, such as makeup, paint, toothpaste….These small facts many people do not know. Mining is a long difficult process that takes much time. The most time consuming step in mineral mining is the reclamation. Reclamation is when mined land has to undergo the process of becoming economically safe, and it must return to the state it was in before even being mined. This project has taught many things about mining and the difficulty put into this process. I hope you find these pictures interesting!

Image Gallery of Our Project

Michelle (left) and Ashlie (right) and a friend visit Michler's Landing south of Ponte Vedre in northeast Florida  to observe that wave action on the beach concentrates components of the sand.

Sand components are concentrated by waves at the beach by particle size and shape and the specific gravity of the particles.

 Concentration of heavy minerals by current action

Visit to Iluka Ltd south of Greencove Springs
(Iluka and Dupont are the only two companies mining heavy minerals in northeast Florida)
(Note: ILUKA has discontinued it's Green Cone Springs operations)

Iluka is located on Warner Road near Route 17 between Green Cove Springs and Palaka.

Iluka's heavy mineral dry mill  processing and administrative buildings as seen from Warner Road
Iluka is located in southern Clay County south of Green Cove Springs.  To find Iluka's location on the map, look for the large O with a smaller 6 next to it. Then look to the left (west) across  Route 17 south of the small airfield and east of the 118' elevation.  Iluka is represented by a mine symbol (crossed pick axes) on the map.  The mined lands are indicated by the rectangular pattern areas in light blue.

Mining Operations
Iluka mines the heavy mineral sands using a dry method using large scraper equipment.  The existing trees are clear cut and removed (most of the mining land is leased from lumber companies) .  The topsoil is pushed off to the side of the mining area forming berms.  The topsoil is saved and is used in reclaming the land after mining is completed.  The topsoil retains the seeds of grasses and many plants so that only pine treees need to be planted after mining to return the land to its original condition.
Wet Mill Operations

The sand is brought to the wet mill where it is mixed with water forming a "slurry" which is transported to the wet mill


The wet mill consists of the aparatus on the left which removes the large "debris" such as rocks and other large objects and then sends the "slurry" to the aparatus on the right

The sands are brought to the top of the large rotating cylinder on top which consists  of mesh strainers which remove the large pieces

The "slurry" is pumped up to the cylindrical distributers on top which allow gravity to feed the "slurry" to the spiral sections

Michelle with Iluka's Mr. Ted Goodman who was our guide for the visit

Michelle next to a set of spiral separators


The spiral separators work because the less dense minerals are flung to the outside of the turn and removed as "tailings" and the heavy minerals stay to the inside and are collected and sent the the next set of spiral separators
After processing the "slurry" numerous times through spiral separators the wet mill product consists of about 86% heavy minerals.  The "tailings" consisting of lighter minerals (mostly quartz) is returned to the mined land and is covered with topsoil during the reclamation process.
Dry Mill Operations

Iluka's Dry Mill (prosessing plant)

The product from the wet mill is brought to the dry mill by large trucks. 

The first step at the dry mill is to rinse the concentrated heavy mineral sand with caustic soda to remove all organic components

After rinsing with caustic soda, the concentrated heavy mineral sand is heated to remove the water for the next steps in the process

The titanium oxide  minerals which are conductors (Illmentite, Leucoxene, and Rutile) are separated by an high voltage electrostatic process.

The non conductor minerals (Staurolite, Zircon, and Monazite) as well as any remaining nonconducter light light minerals such as quartz are also  isolated with this process.

The titanium oxide minerals are separated by a series of magnets.  The Illmenite is separed first with weaker magnets as Illmenite contains the most iron.

The Leucoxene is searated next by stronger magnets as Leucoxene has less iron than Illmentie.  The leaves the Rutile which is pure titanium oxide and is nonmagnetic.

Michelle checks out some of the equipment at the dry mill

The non conductor minerals (Staurolite, Zircon, and Monazite) are isolated by their different specific gravities by a combination of processes such as the shaker table on the left and more spiral separator stages in the far right.. 

These smaller spiral separator stages cotinue to refine the non conductor minerals.  The most valuable non conductor product is zircon which is used by the ceramics industry.  Stauolite is not produced as a product at Iluka but is produced at other mining operations and is used for sand blasting.  The Monazite is composed of  Thorium Phosphate and can be used as a fuel for nuclear power plants.

A settling tank is used to skim off any remaining quartz by injecting a slurry from the bottom of the tank upwards in to the tank.  The less dense quartz sinks more slowly than the more dense minerals (Stokes Law) and can be rmoved at the top of the tank.