A mining company hopes to ramp up its exploration of mineral sands south of Horsham later this year, and to practice extracting precious minerals north of the city.
WIM Resource Pty Ltd submitted a retention licence 18 months ago for 3000 hectares of land south of Reynolds Road at Bungalally, where an estimated 205 million tonnes of mineral sands rests underground.
Project manager Michael Winternitz said the company was in the process of advertising its plans widely, and hoped to have the licence approved in three months.
"The state government has said it's ready to have a serious look at our application," he said.
"We've been exploring Bungalally project for a few years now and completed drilling over private properties.
"We'd do further consultation if we wanted to do further drilling but if we get the licence our work probably won't look significantly different to what we've been doing up until now: we may undertake groundwater monitoring to check if there is any, so we may install some bores."
A WIM Resource advertisement regarding the licence ran in the Mail-Times on July 31.
Mr Winternitz said the mineral sands formed in the Wimmera when there was an inland sea in the area.
"During that time the mechanical processes of the sea concentrated zircon, ilmenitle and rutile on heavy mineral sands," he said.
"In the Bungalally deposit there are a coupe of hundred million tones of raw saw sand - within that sand there is three to four per cent of heavy minerals, and within that heavy mineral there is probably 60 per cent of these titanium minerals and 30 per cent of zircon."
WIM Resource's flagship project is an even larger sand mine at Dooen, known as Avonbank. Mr Winternitz said an important pilot exercise for the project would take place in September.
"The project is currently at an approval stage and at a bankable feasibility stage," he said.
"Subject to the completion of the feasibility study and potentially commonwealth government approvals, the company's board proposes to proceed with that project with construction from around 2022," he said.
"WIM Resources has submitted to the state planning minister and we expect a response in the next few weeks as to what that approvals path might look like."
"In the meantime, the company has decided to undertake a major test pit exercise near the intermodal freight terminal.
"In April this year we commenced earthworks on the pit and in around two months we removed around 10,000 tonnes of ore form the Avonbank project.
"The ore is now sitting on the ground and in a few weeks we will bring a pilot-scale separation plant to site. We'll be using some local labor out of Horsham to assist with that construction."
"Basically we will then feed that 10,000 tonne of ore through this pilot plant to produce a heavy mineral concentrate and that will be a good test for us to see the recovery quality of that concentrate.
"That pit is a major undertaking from our shareholder in terms of a financial commitment, purpose of that is to de-risk the project to a point where they're comfortable funding it to full production."