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|Australia is the world's leading producer and exporter of mineral sands. Despite increased production from some other countries in recent years, Australia maintained its No.1 position in 1988 among world producers of mineral sands concentrates. Production of the titanium minerals -- ruffle, ilmenite and leucoxene, as well as synthetic ruffle -- by the seven companies currently comprising the Australian industry increased in 1988 in response to continuing strong demand for feedstock by the pigment industry. Production of co-product zircon remained at the 1987 level, reflecting declining zircon grades. Exports of mineral sands concentrates increased in 1988; export earnings exceeded $300million. Prices for mineral sands concentrates are now at a historical high and, assuming that the world economy remains strong, real prices should continue to trend upwards in the short term. Exploration in the Eneabba-Cooljarloo region and the Scott River area, both in WA, the Murray Basin, Vic, and the central Queensland coast area, has identified substantial resources of heavy mineral sands. These discoveries have reversed the trend of the early 1980s of falling resources of mineral sands. In 1988, BMR estimated that economic demonstrated resources (EDR) of ilmenite, rutile, zircon and monazite combined was about 72.8 million tonnes. However, a substantial portion of the resources on the east coast are frozen as a result of environmental considerations. The proportion of mineral sands concentrates processed in Australia increased with the commissioning of two new synthetic rutile plants; Australia is now the world's leading producer of synthetic rutile (total capacity 272000 tonnes), most of it for export. Australia's two TiO2 pigment producers have both increased capacity, lifting national capacity by some 70p ercent to over 120000 tonnes/yr. As part of the expansion one producer converted from the sulphate to the chloride process. Other new pigment plants are being proposed for the future.|