Published On: October 27th, 2022
Bruce Maluish, the managing director of VRX Silica (ASX: VRX) has played a major role in bringing VRX Silica as the most advanced pure-play silica sand company on the ASX. The high-grade silica sand explorer is advancing its four, large-scale Western Australian silica sand projects to meet the global demands for high-quality silica sand.
While addressing the New World metals Conference 2022, Mr. Maluish highlighted the fact that “silica sand is the most used commodity on the planet after water” and that Asia is facing the highest demand for silica sand.
MD Maluish weighed in on the current global demand for silica sand, including everyday products requiring silica sand, and how Australia and VRX Silica positioned themselves to meet the global demand.
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Bruce, before we move on to VRX Silica, can you tell us where Australia stands in meeting the silica sand demand?
Australia is currently one of the world’s largest silica sand exporters. It will emerge as a major sector in our country’s growth.
Precisely speaking, Western Australia has over a billion tonnes of silica sand resources. Major players are looking for potential high-grade silica mine locations.
We can say that Australia is already well-established in the silica sand market. The demand is rapidly increasing, especially high-quality silica sand. It is an increasingly scarce resource which is something we need to keep a check on.
You have highlighted that silica sand is the second most consumed material on Earth. What makes it indispensable?
Well, silica sand is widely used in concrete and infrastructure. It is the primary material used in the production of ultra-clear cover glass, ceramics, paint, plastic, car tyres, container glass, and solar panels.
Speaking from a broader perspective, silica sand plays a significant role in various industries such as automobiles, construction, defence, and energy.
Also, the automobile industry is particularly in need of glass, especially flat glass. The 95% silicon dioxide required to produce glass is obtained from silica sand.
Bruce, take us through VRX Silica’s projects and resource potential
Silica sand is not something we can obtain from deserts or beaches. They are not suitable for making concrete or glass. You need high-quality silica sand derived from granites. VRX Silica owns four high-value silica sand projects, the Arrowsmith North, Arrowsmith Central, Muchea and Boyatup, in Western Australia, with silica sand grades ranging from 99.6%-99.9% SiO2.
Our bankable feasibility study evaluations show that all our projects have an initial mine life of 25 years of economic production.
VRX Silica has projects worth a 100-year production life. We have enough space and resources for a long-term supply of raw materials. Speaking of the rising demand, we are currently focused on commencing the Arrowsmith North project in 2023.
What opportunities do you think are there for VRX Silica in the silica sand market?
The Asian glass makers are in need of silica sand for producing concrete and building infrastructure. Asia has depleted resources and restrictions for better quality sand as they are mostly found to be in lakes and rivers. We look to bridge the supply-side gap by exporting the raw materials needed.
We get a lot of interest from customers in Southeast Asia due to the diminishing global supply and increasing demand.
Coming to Australia, the country imports most of its solar panels from China. We look forward to seeing a glass manufacturing company in Western Australia. If the government takes steps towards implementing renewable energy sources, Australia can make its own solar panels as we have got the main ingredient for glass making which is silica sand.
What are the key strategies adopted by VRX Silica as a silica sand explorer?
Each of our projects is capable of independent operation and can supply raw materials to diverse markets.
The Muchea project especially has a very high silica sand grade of 99.9% SiO2 purity, which I can say is much needed for the ultra-clear glass market that goes on top of solar panels.
Half of the production at Arrowsmith goes to the foundry industry.
We’ve had environmental studies and tests performed in advance. We’ve got mining leases with combined Mineral Resources of more than 1 billion tonnes of high-grade silica sand.
Once we get the final EPA approval, we are all set to start our production.
Do you have anything to convey to your investors?
I would like to say that VRX is currently awaiting EPA approval from the government. Following the approval, we will start our production at Arrowsmith North in 2023.
Once we kick start our production at the most advanced site, Arrowsmith North, we will start the production at other project sites namely Arrowsmith Central, Muchea, and Boyatup.