street sign showing direction to thunderbird operations

Thunderbird Minerals Sands Project

Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project (First Investment Decision August 2018. Second Investment Decision March 2022)

About the Project

In March 2022 NAIF made an Investment Decision to offer financial assistance of up to $160 million to Kimberley Mineral Sands Pty Ltd (KMS) to support the development of the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project in the Kimberley region of Western Australia.

KMS is a 50/50 joint venture between Sheffield and YGH Australia Investment Pty Ltd (Yansteel), formed in 2021 to develop the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project.

Thunderbird will generate a high-quality suite of mineral sands concentrate products suited to market requirements.  These products include a zircon concentrate and a magnetic concentrate that contains a high quality ilmenite suitable smelting into chloride slag or for manufacturing titanium dioxide pigment.

During Stage 1 construction, Thunderbird is expected to support a workforce of approximately 350 people and establish a drive in, drive out operational workforce within the Kimberley region of Western Australia with approximately 350 steady state jobs created across the projected 36 year mine life.  Additionally, significant public benefits will be delivered within the Kimberley community through a range of business and contracting opportunities.

Indigenous Engagement

  • Sheffield’s Our Pledge to the Kimberley Community includes Aboriginal jobs (building to 40% in first eight years of operation) and Aboriginal business content (minimum of $5m/year from year five) plus Aboriginal training fund.
  • Cash royalties to exceed $100m over four decades.
  • Cross cultural awareness training by Traditional Owners for all employees and contractors.

Australian Industry Participation

Australian Industry Participation (AIP) requirements ensure full, fair and reasonable opportunity for Australian industry to compete for work. This includes work in major public and private projects in Australia, and procurements or projects receiving Australian Government funding of $20 million or more.

NAIF projects much comply with the Commonwealth’s AIP policy.

The AIP Plan developed by Sheffield Resources Limited for the Thunderbird Minerals Sands Project is available here.


*NAIF initially supported the project with an Investment Decision in 2018. Following a corporate transaction, a new investment decision to support the project by NAIF was made in March 2022.


Economic Impact and Public Benefit

  • Over the construction period and first 20 years of operations the project is forecast to generate an increment to Northern Australia real Gross Regional Product of $1.85 billion in present value terms. The project is also forecast to generate 225 new jobs in Northern Australia during construction and 345 ongoing operational roles for the life of the mine.
  • As part of its Indigenous Engagement Strategy, KMS have committed to achieving strong Indigenous employment, business and social outcomes in the region, through working with the Joombarn-buru Traditional Owners and also collaborating with key Indigenous organisations across the West Kimberley. The IES covers obligations on supporting economic benefits through employment and business contracts, cultural heritage protection, environmental management, cultural awareness to a non-Indigenous workforce and a social impact assessment.

Commenting on the NAIF Facility approval, Sheffield Executive Chair, Bruce Griffin, said: “Sheffield is extremely pleased by the level of support shown by NAIF and the Federal Government for the Thunderbird Mineral Sands Project.  The NAIF commitment will enable KMS to finalise project funding requirements for Thunderbird and progress construction activities, with the aim of delivering first production in early 2024.”.