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Maputo — Mozambique’s Minister of Mineral Resources, Esperanca Bias, has annulled the restricted tender held last year for development of the titanium-bearing heavy mineral sands in Chibuto district, in the southern province of Gaza, according to a report in Saturday’s issue of the Maputo daily “Noticias”.

The tender was launched in late 2011, and the bids were opened in May 2012. As a result the rights to exploit the Chibuto heavy sands were granted to the Zambezi Delta Consortium, which then had 180 days to negotiate with the government the terms and conditions for the project.

This was the third company to be awarded the rights to Chibuto mineral sands. Originally the rights were given to the Australian company BHP-Billiton, but it withdrew in 2009.

Then, in April 2011 the rights were handed over to Rock Forage Titanium Ltd, a company formed by Canadian and Mozambican investors.

However, in November 2011 the government cancelled Rock Forage Titanium's rights because the company failed to pay it the agreed signature bonus of 50,000 US dollars, despite repeated extensions to the deadline.

The government therefore had to lunch another tender, which only received two bidders: Zambezi Delta Consortium and SPI Chibuto Sands Consortium.

Once again, the tender has failed. The deadline for negotiating and signing a project implementation agreement with the government expired on 3 December, but the company did not meet the deadline, and the government is now back to square one.

The sands at Chibuto contain known reserves of 72 million tonnes of ilmenite, 2.6 million tonnes of zircon and 400,000 tonnes of rutile. This is enough to keep a mine in production for 30 years. Ilmenite (iron titanium oxide) and rutile (titanium dioxide) are used to make white pigments for paints, paper and plastic. Titanium can be extracted from these ores and used to manufacture metallic parts where light weight and high strength are needed. Zircon (zirconium silicate) is used for abrasive and insulating purposes.

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