Mineral sand production from Alberta's oil sands would represent a sustainable resource, with a lifespan in excess of 50 years for export to growing world markets.
Most the world's mineral sands produced today originates from alluvial sand deposits located in Australia, Africa and the United States. These heavy mineral deposits are frequently accumulated along beach, river or deltaic banks as a result of tidal, wave or water flow and wind action that serves to concentrate the heavy zircon and titanium-bearing minerals. Key valuable minerals are removed from these sand deposits using a variety of techniques which exploit their high specific gravity, and differences in their magnetic and electrostatic responses.
Titanium minerals are used as feedstocks to the downstream titanium dioxide (TiO2) pigment industry which accounts for over 90% of the world's titanium consumption.
Zircon is a valuable by-product of titanium mineral operations and used primarily in the manufacturing of ceramics. Zircon remains in high demand, particularly in China.