SIERRA RUTILE, A WHOLLY owned subsidiary of Iluka Resources, is a leading mineral sands company, operating world-class assets in Sierra Leone.
The company produces highquality rutile and ilmenite from the world's largest natural rutile deposit, located in the Bonthe and Moyamba districts of Southern Province.
With an operating history spanning more than 50 years, Sierra Rutile is one of Sierra Leone's oldest and most storied resources companies, enjoying a strong affinity with the country and its people.
The company has undergone several evolutions since its inception in 1967, and the most recent of these was its merger with Iluka in December 2016.
Iluka is an international mineral sands company with over 60 years' experience and expertise in exploration, development, mining, processing, marketing and rehabilitation.
The company is listed on the Australian Securities Exchange and headquartered in Perth, Western Australia. With operations in Australia and Sierra Leone; projects in Australia, Sierra Leone and Sri Lanka; and a globally integrated marketing network, Iluka is the world's largest producer of zircon and rutile. The company is also a major producer of synthetic rutile, an upgraded form of ilmenite.
Sierra Rutile has a resource life of at least 20 years, with exploration activities that are ongoing. Key features of the current operation include three mines - Lanti Dredge, Lanti Dry and Gangama - a mineral separation plant and associated infrastructure.
Iluka is investing substantially in Sierra Rutile and plans to increase production from current levels of about 150,000 tonnes per annum to between 250,000 and 275,000 tonnes per annum over the coming years. Expansions at Lanti Dry and Gangama are already underway, with commissioning planned for 2019. A definitive feasibility study has begun for a new mine at Sembehun, with final development subject to Board approval.
Sierra Rutile employs more than 2,000 people and its workforce is over 98% Sierra Leonean. As a major employer, the operation has a commitment to local content and procurement. It occupies an important role in Sierra Leone's national economy and the local economies of Bonthe and Moyamba in particular.
More than simply a source of employment, Sierra Rutile provides world-class mineral products to the global marketplace, with end-use applications that are part of everyday life. From paint to aeroplanes; sunscreen to smartphones, Sierra Rutile's products are present in pigments, ceramics, titanium metal, catalytic converters, fuel cells, water purification and fibre optics, to name but a few.
As part of Iluka, sustainability at Sierra Rutile means integrating economic, environmental and social considerations into business practice; and ensuring safe and responsible conduct underpins everything the company does.
Group-level sustainability frameworks have been implemented at Sierra Rutile, with a focus on safety, environmental management and anti-bribery and corruption.
The operation emphasises land rehabilitation as an essential part of its operating model; and has adopted a ‘back to basics' approach to safety, including personal accountability, understanding risks, incident and hazard reporting and the wearing of appropriate personal protective equipment. Once complete, the large capital upgrade of Sierra Rutile's infrastructure will also enhance worker safety.
Following extensive consultation, Sierra Rutile has recently put in place a Community Development Agreement and a Community Development Committee, which will govern how the benefits of the operation are shared with local communities. Sierra Rutile supports the Jackson and Devon Anderson (JADA) Technical Institute and the Ruby Rose Educational and Resource Centre, both important community hubs in close proximity to the operation.
The Sierra Rutile clinic is an important part of the company's social performance. The clinic is equipped to handle a wide range of health tests and collaborates with specialist physicians to provide routine screening of diseases to its workforce and their immediate dependents.
Sierra Rutile promotes the fundamentals of fitness for work and conducts a number of initiatives and talks to enhance health awareness among the workforce. Sierra Rutile has a proud history in Sierra Leone and the company, along with all of its stakeholders, is looking forward to a bright future.
Q&A: Rob Hattingh
Rob Hattingh speaks with Mining Journal
Rob Hattingh is the CEO of Sierra Rutile. He has led the company since its merger with Iluka Resources in December 2016; and is also a member of Iluka's executive management team. Rob took some time to speak with Mining Journal and share some of his thoughts and experiences about what it is like to run one of Sierra Leone's biggest companies.
Mining Journal: What has struck you most in your first 18 months as Sierra Rutile Chief Executive?
Rob Hattingh: In merging with Sierra Rutile, Iluka took over a mature and well established business, with local expertise in mining and processing mineral sands.
I think what has struck me the most is the warmth and generosity of the Sierra Leonean people; the dedication of our workforce; and the pride of place Sierra Rutile holds among the local, and indeed, national community.
Some members of our team have family members that have worked here going back several generations. It is humbling to think of the resilience of the many thousands of Sierra Leoneans that have plied their craft in this community over the past 50 years to make the operation what it is today, sometimes under the most challenging of conditions.
I was joined by a small group that relocated to Sierra Leone from Australia following the merger. We have been welcomed enthusiastically and feel privileged to have become part of Sierra Rutile's history.
MJ: What are your priorities over the next two years?
RH: Our number one priority is to deliver on the substantial programme of capital investment and expansion we have in front of us. I am pleased with the improvements and enhancements to current operations that have occurred over the past year and half. The task now is to build on this momentum and expand production considerably, in line with our plans.
While I have no doubt that we will encounter challenges along the way, I have confidence that the local knowledge and experience of the Sierra Rutile workforce, combined with Iluka's technical expertise, will grow the operation to the benefit of all of its stakeholders.
MJ: Your previous experience includes leading Iluka's Sustainability Group, how do you approach sustainability at Sierra Rutile?
RH: I think it is important to note that Iluka's approach to sustainable development is applied by the company in all of the jurisdictions in which it operates. Since the merger with Sierra Rutile, we have implemented group-level frameworks with respect to safety, environmental management and corporate governance. These are essential elements of our business.
Sustainable investment in our local communities is also important and, to provide a recent example, we have constructed a 60m footbridge over the Lanti dredge pond to link the villages of Higima and Nyandehun in the Imperi Chiefdom. The bridge provides for the safe movement of people and motorbikes between the two villages and is a demonstration of Sierra Rutile's commitment to social performance outcomes that are mutually beneficial.
Sierra Rutile - at a glance
Wholly owned subsidiary of Iluka Resources (ASX: ILU)