A boom in consumer-led growth in China will underwrite development of about five large mineral sands mines over the next two decades, according to Iluka Resources. Each of the new operations would need to be the size of Rio Tinto's Richards Bay in South Africa, the largest mine in the sector, Iluka's chief executive, David Robb, said. Demand for titanium dioxide feedstocks, used in paints, paper and plastics, would swell as incomes rose in China, he said. "China is poised for very, very rapid growth in demand in those areas as consumerism becomes the engine," Robb said. He added that China was "at that inflection point now, where the intensity of use of those products increases very dramatically". Zircon products, used in items ranging from electronic circuitry boards to nuclear reactor cores, were also poised for growth, Robb said. Demand in China might require an additional 1.3 million tonnes of titanium dioxide feedstock by 2025, said Rio Tinto, the biggest producer. Rio is studying the US$400 million development of the Zulti South mineral sands deposit in South Africa - a scheme which would allow the company to sustain production rates at Richards Bay for at least 20 years. Richards Bay, which can produce about two million tonnes of products a year, accounts for about 25 per cent of global titanium feedstock output and 33 per cent of zircon output, according to Rio. Robb said Iluka would open a technical centre in China this year to pursue new marketing opportunities and was also considering growth options, including acquisitions. "We have an extremely strong financial position," he said. "We have capability therefore to do things, but we do not feel any pressure whatsoever."