ILUKA Resources Ltd has revealed plans for the phased closure of its South West mining operations after handing down an interim net profit fall of 15.2 per cent due to a stronger Australian dollar and shipment delays. Iluka said its first-half profit slipped to $42 million, excluding the losses incurred by its businesses in Florida and Georgia, which have since been shut down. Taking into account the US losses, Iluka’s net profit jumped 30.4 per cent. The mineral sands miner maintained its full year guidance for net profit to come in at between at $55 million to $65 million, which is based on an exchange rate of US87 cents. Managing director David Robb said he was pleased with the results the company could control during the half, which included keeping cash production cost increases to 6 per cent while boosting output of zircon, rutile and synthetic rutile. Iluka’s more than 50-year association with mining in the South West will come to an end in 2014, more than 12 years ahead of schedule, following a six-month review of its struggling operations. Its South West operations employ about 300 people plus about 300 contractors. The company said its landholdings in the South West had an unimproved value of $120 million and it would look to sell or develop the property over time. News of the South West closure came as Iluka said it would ramp up its focus on zircon, flagging plans to lift sales by 60 per cent during the next five to seven years. Iluka said it expected stronger earnings after 2008 with the start of the higher margin Murray Basin Stage 2 project in 2009 and the Jacinth-Ambrosia project in the Eucla Basin in 2010. Julie-anne Sprague
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