Environmental Science
articles by Will Kemp

Land degradation and rehabilitation in coastal sand mining


Australian beaches and coastal dune systems have been mined for several reasons. The earliest sand miners extracted gold from the deposits of black sands that were found from the south coast of New South Wales to the beaches of central Queensland. Later mineral sand mining focussed on the heavy minerals, rutile, zircon, ilmenite, and monazite (Morley, 1981).

Rutile and ilmenite contain titanium, which is mainly used in the form of titanium dioxide (TiO2) as a white pigment in paints, plastics, paper, and other products that require a bright white pigment. Titanium metal is as strong as some steels, but only about half the weight, and is used in heart pacemakers, artificial joints, jewellery, and spacecraft, among other things.

Zircon contains zirconium, which is used in electronics, ceramics, engines, and spacecraft.

Monazite contains cerium, lanthanum, neodymium, and thorium, which are used in rechargeable batteries (Crow, 2011), x-ray screens, fibre optics, high performance magnets, ceramics, television tubes, and as a nuclear fuel (thorium) (Geoscience Australia, n.d.).

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