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Iluka's US mines permanently closed, sale unlikely

Iluka Resources Ltd. has decided to permanently close its ilmenite operations in the U.S.

Managing Director and CEO Tom O'Leary said the Australian mineral sands producer is no longer contemplating resuming mining in Virginia or going ahead with the development of the Hickory project in Virginia or the Aurelian Springs project in North Carolina.

"The U.S. operations and projects are now closed rather than merely idled," he said during a Jan. 31 conference call.

The Virginia operation was idled at the end of 2015 and is now undergoing rehabilitation.

In the second half of 2016, the focus of U.S. activities shifted from being an idled site ready to restart if market conditions improved to a permanently closed site, which led to an increase in U.S.-related rehabilitation costs of A$41 million to A$104 million.

Although there are still resources in the ground, Iluka does not believe the U.S. assets will fetch a decent price, and the company is unlikely to sell.

"We're not falling over ourselves to put resources into the hands of others for nominal sums," CFO Doug Warden said.

"In question is, what you would get for that given those rehab liabilities. I'd suggest it wouldn't be a positive number unless someone was not particularly commercial."