The two most useful properties of the metal are corrosion resistance and the highest strength-to-weight ratio of any metal.  In its unalloyed condition, titanium is as strong as some steels, but 45% lighter.
Heavy mineral sands contain ores such as ilmenite (titanium iron oxide), rutile (titanium dioxide), and zircon (zirconium silicate). Ilmenite and rutile 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.

Titanium-based batteries charge in two minutes, last 20 years
Singaporean university develops what could be a huge game-changer in battery technology.
Author: Lawrence Williams
Posted: Friday , 17 Oct 2014
LONDON (Mineweb) - 
In what could be a game-changer in battery development, with a potentially enormous impact on the market for electric powered motor vehicles, scientists at Singapore’s Nanyang Technology University (NTU) have developed ultra-fast charging batteries that can be recharged up to 70% in only two minutes. What’s more, the university claims that these new generation batteries also have a long lifespan of over 20 years - more than ten times that of existing lithium-ion batteries. 
This breakthrough could have an enormous impact on all industries, especially for electric vehicles, where consumers are put off by the long recharge times and limited battery life. With this new technology, drivers of electric vehicles could save tens of thousands on battery replacement costs and could recharge their cars in a matter of minutes.
“Electric cars will be able to increase their range dramatically, with just five minutes of charging, which is on par with the time needed to pump petrol for current cars,” says its invetor - Associate Professor Chen Xiaodong from NTU’s School of Materials Science and Engineering.
The 10,000-cycle life of the new battery also mean that drivers of electric vehicles would save on the cost of battery replacements, which could cost over US$5,000 each.
This could also provide a good shot in the arm for mines producing titanium dioxide, although it could be seriously problematic for companies focussing on graphite should the technology be fully proven on a commercial scale and brought into production quickly - as NTU claims it could be.
Commonly used in mobile phones, tablets, and in electric vehicles, rechargeable lithium-ion batteries usually last about 500 recharge cycles. This is equivalent to two to three years of typical use, with each cycle taking about two hours for the battery to be fully charged.
“Equally important, we can now drastically cut down the toxic waste generated by disposed batteries, since our batteries last ten times longer than the current generation of lithium-ion batteries,” adds Prof Chen.
The process
In the new NTU-developed battery, the traditional graphite used for the anode (negative pole) in lithium-ion batteries is replaced with a new gel material made from readily available titanium dioxide which is mostly used in pigments and sunscreen lotions.
The NTU team has found a way to transform the titanium dioxide into tiny nanotubes, which are a thousand times thinner than the diameter of a human hair. This speeds up the chemical reactions taking place in the new battery, allowing for superfast charging. 
The science behind the formation of the new titanium dioxide gel was published in the latest issue of Advanced Materials, a leading international scientific journal in materials science.
Prof Chen and his team will be applying for a proof-of-concept grant to build a large-scale battery prototype. With the help of NTUitive, a wholly-owned subsidiary of NTU set up to support NTU start-ups, the patented technology has already attracted interest from the industry.
The technology is currently being licensed by a company for eventual production. Prof Chen expects that this new generation of fast-charging batteries based on his research could hit the market in the next two years.
Easy to manufacture
An NTU media release notes that according to Frost & Sullivan, a leading growth-consulting firm, the global market for rechargeable lithium-ion batteries is projected to be worth US$23.4 billion in 2016, but these usually use additives to bind the electrodes to the anode, which affects the speed in which electrons and ions can transfer in and out of the batteries.
Prof Chen’s new cross-linked titanium dioxide nanotube-based electrodes eliminates the need for these additives and can pack more energy into the same amount of space.
Manufacturing this new nanotube gel is claimed to be very easy. Titanium dioxide and sodium hydroxide are mixed together and stirred under a certain temperature so battery manufacturers will find it easy to integrate the new gel into their current production processes.
Recognised as next big thing by co-inventor of today’s lithium-ion batteries
NTU professor Rachid Yazami - who co-invented the lithium-graphite anode 30 years ago that is used in today’s lithium-ion batteries - said Prof Chen’s invention is the next big leap in battery technology.
“While the cost of lithium-ion batteries has been significantly reduced and its performance improved since Sony commercialised it in 1991, the market is fast expanding towards new applications in electric mobility and energy storage,” said Prof Yazami, who is not involved in Prof Chen’s research project.
Last year, Prof Yazami was awarded the prestigious Draper Prize by The National Academy of Engineering for his ground-breaking work in developing the lithium-ion battery with three other scientists.
“However, there is still room for improvement and one such key area is the power density - how much power can be stored in a certain amount of space - which directly relates to the fast charge ability. Ideally, the charge time for batteries in electric vehicles should be less than 15 minutes, which Prof Chen’s nanostructured anode has proven to do so.”

Prof Yazami is now developing new types of batteries for electric vehicle applications at the Energy Research Institute at NTU (ERI@N). This battery research project took the team of four scientists three years to complete. It is funded by the National Research Foundation (NRF), Prime Minister's Office, Singapore, under its Campus for Research Excellence and Technological Enterprise (CREATE) Programme of Nanomaterials for Energy and Water Management.

Titanium price: 12 months
Titanium charts on InfoMine.com
The world’s zirconium production is presently entirely a by-product of titanium sands mining
 (USGS 2007 minerals yearbook).
 In 2007 the main producers were Australia (550Kt zircon oxide), South Africa (405Kt), China  (170Kt) and the United States (100Kt). As examples of world-class deposits, the Mindarie Mine operated by  Australian Zircon NL near Adelaide, South Australia, has proven and probable reserves of 59 Mt containing 4.3%  heavy minerals. Bemax’s Murray Basin operations in eastern Australia reported reserves of 11.1 Mt averaging 3.7%  heavy minerals, while its Western Australia operation reported 1.2 Mt averaging 11.8% heavy minerals. Zircon concentrates must have guaranteed levels of 65-66% ZrO2+HfO2, a maximum of 0.25-0.04% Fe2O3, 0.3-0.1% TiO2 and 0.1% free silica. Some specialized concentrates may also have limits on grain size, Al2O3, U and Th content,  particularly in the ceramics industry (Murphy and Frick 2006). In Canada proper, Titanium Corp Inc. continues to  pursue the recovery of heavy minerals from the Athabasca oil sands tailings in Alberta (http://www.titaniumcorporation.com).)

Rio Tinto, Fer et Titane operates the Havre-Saint-Pierre mine and the Sorel-Tracy metallurgical complex in Quebec, Canada
In operation since 1950, the orebody at Lac Tio is an open-pit mine located 43 km northeast of Havre-Saint-Pierre, the site of the largest solid ilmenite deposit in the world. The exceptional size and quality of the Lac Tio deposit hold enormous potential for the future - it has a life expectancy of at least another 40 years.

Lac Tio Ilmenite Mine

Operating year-round, Rio Tinto, Fer et Titane's mine has close to 300 employees who ensure that all activities run smoothly, from mining the ore to transporting it to Havre-Saint-Pierre, and then to the metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy.

The ore is extracted by blasting. Each blast loosens 100,000 to 200,000 tonnes of ore and tailing.

The ore loosens by blasting is transported to crushers, which pound it first into 20-centimetre pieces and then further reduce it to less than 7.5 cm. - 

The crushed ore is shipped by train to Havre-Saint-Pierre and unloaded at the RTFT dock. From there is it transferred by conveyor on to an ore carrier destined for the Sorel-Tracy metallurgical complex, which receives about three million metric tonnes of ilmenite yearly.

Metallurgical Complex (Sorel-Tracy)

RTFT's metallurgical complex in Sorel-Tracy is the only one of its kind in the world. It is the site of several interconnected plants with varied but complementary types of production. The reduction plant is at the heart of the complex and has nine furnaces that feed the entire production line. The smelted ore is transformed into titanium dioxide feedstock and iron, or transported to the steel plant and the metal powder plant for further processing. The resulting products are used as raw materials by pigment producers, the automotive industry and foundries.

Developed by RTFT in the 1940s, the reduction process makes it possible to extract iron and titanium dioxide from the ore and made RTFT the first company in the world to remove iron from ilmenite for commercial use.

Rio Tinto, Fer et Titane, employs more than 1700 people at its Sorel-Tracy site. Home to the production facilities, the complex also houses the RTFT research centre and the company's head office.

  • Richards Bay Minerals (RBM), is an internationally recognised sand mining and mineral processing operations leader jointly owned by Rio Tinto (37%), BHP Billiton ( 37%), Blue Horizon Investments (24%) and RBM permanent employees (2%). RBM is one of the world's foremost producers of titanium minerals, high purity pig iron, rutile and zircon.
  • Namakwa Sands undertakes the mining and beneficiation of heavy minerals. The operation is located on the west coast of South Africa and operates facilities at three separate sites. The mine and the concentration plants are located at the Brand-se-Baai, 385km north of Cape Town. Concentrate is transported to the mineral separation plant by truck. The mineral separation plant is located at Koeknaap, 60km from the mine. Here ilmenite, zircon and rutile are recovered before the products are transported to the smelter by rail. The smelter is based close to Saldanha Bay, 150km from Cape Town. Namakwa Sands operates two furnaces where ilmenite is smelted to produce titanium slag and pig iron. The Namakwa Sands operation started in 1994 and is one of the largest mineral sand operations in the world.

Australia’s Base Resources is on track to start output from the Kwale mineral sands mine at the coast in the third quarter of 2013, potentially spurring further investment into the country’s underdeveloped mining sector.
Output is expected to triple the country’s mining export revenues and overtake coffee, which brings in about US$200m per year, as Kenya’s fourth-largest source of hard currency. “Kwale really represents that flagship mining project that Kenya’s government needed to kick start the mining industry,” said Tim Carstens, managing director of Base Resources.

The mine will produce 80,000 tonnes of rutile per year, or 14% of the world’s supply, 330,000 tonnes of ilmenite and 40,000 tonnes of zircon, when it is fully operational. Rutile, which is composed of titanium dioxide, is an important pigment for industrial, domestic and artistic applications. Zircon is mainly used in the ceramics industry, while ilmenite is related to titanium. If the Kwale project is successful, the mining industry and Kenya’s government hope it could prove to be a catalyst for further investment by foreign and local companies.