A MINERAL sands exploration company will start drilling north of Horsham this month.
WIM Resource will test for heavy mineral sands about 15 kilometres north of the city.
Up to 50 square kilometres between Dooen and Jung will be included in the study.
The Avonbank deposit is the company’s flagship project.
Senior geologist Michael Winternitz said the work would extend on drilling done in the 1980s and in 2007.
“We anticipate drilling will take three to four weeks,” he said. “The current deposit is estimated at 277 million tonnes of 5.7 per cent heavy mineral, mostly featuring zircon.
“Zircon is mainly used for the production of ceramics.”
Three Wimmera residents will be employed as field assistants.
“One started on Saturday,” Mr Winternitz said.
Using a low-impact air core driller, the workers will bore about 150 holes, each about 45 millimetres wide and 30 metres deep.
The equipment will be mounted to a small truck or a four-wheel-drive.
Consultations with affected landholders began last September.
Mr Winternitz said most supported the company’s plans, though some had concerns about the prospect for mining projects.
But he said mining could be several years away.
“We are in the early stages of assessment of the project,” he said.
Mr Winternitz said the company was planning on making a significant investment in exploration in the area.
In addition to drilling, WIM Resource has also applied for a 10-year retention licence.
“The licence would permit the company to hold tenure of the site for a decade, to allow for a full assessment of the deposit,” Mr Winternitz said.
The RL 2014 application was advertised in the Mail-Times on December 27.
Submissions closed on Friday.
Mr Winternitz was unaware of any formal objections.
He said it could take up to a year for the licence to be granted.
“But the outcome of the retention licence will not affect planned drilling this month,” he said.
The company already holds two exploration licences over the project.
Mr Winternitz said WIM Resource drew confidence from mining company Australian Zircon’s proposed mineral sands mine at Drung.
“But their deposit is slightly bigger than ours, at this stage,” he said.
If approved, the WIM150 Mineral Sands Project will target heavy minerals for zircon and titanium.
Australian Zircon has proposed a 12,850-hectare mine.