PERTH (miningweekly.com) – Heavy rare earths producer Northern Minerals has flagged the potential to increase production from its Browns Range pilot plant project, in Western Australia, at a capital cost of A$4-million.
The ASX-listed company said on Thursday that it had investigated using ore sorting on the five stockpiles at Browns Range to improve beneficiation and feed to the processing facility, which would result in an increase in the amount of rare earth oxides that could be produced by the recently commissioned pilot plant.
The technology tested on the Wolverine high-grade stockpile demonstrated the potential to double the mill feed grade.
“Ore sorting technology is readily available through a number of providers and our studies on the five existing run-of-mine stockpiles have shown the potential for significant improvements in both processing plant efficiency and value recovery from heavy rare earth elements through its use,” said Northern Minerals MD and CEO George Bauk.
“We believe the up-front capital cost of retrospectively installing ore sorting technology ahead of the existing Browns Range pilot plant circuit is justified in light of the head grade improvement demonstrated in the testwork to date, along with the forecast economic benefits delivered by greater production output, both of which will flow through to additional medium-term value for shareholders.”
Bauk said that the company is currently conducting more testwork, while also working on approvals, planning and the funding requirements for ore sorting at Browns Range, with a view to having ore sorting installed in the second quarter of 2019.
The Browns Range pilot plant earlier this week produced its first rare earth carbonate, following the start of plant commissioning in June.
Currently, the pilot plant is expected to produce 573 000 kg of mixed heavy rare earth carbonate containing terbium and dysprosium as revenue products, over a three-year period.