JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – Comprehensive work programmes aimed at commercialising ASX-listed rare earths company Arafura Resources’ 100%-owned Nolans rare earths project, in Australia’s Northern Territory, have identified several improvements to the existing project structure that will deliver a more competitive and efficient project with greater capacity to withstand cyclical downturns in rare earth prices.
These studies, targeting preferred phosphate-rich material types in the project's resource, would deliver an optimal plant feed and throughput that resulted in an adjustment to the planned yearly rare earths output to 14 000 t of total rare earth oxides over the more than 20-year operational life of the project.
Identified improvements also included the planned yearly output of 110 000 t of a merchant-grade phosphoric acid product, which would be sold to the fertiliser industry.
Moreover, the expected capital expansion that had initially been required in the seventh year of operation had been deferred to well beyond the project’s initial financing period, following investigations into the mining schedule.
“We have been steadily rationalising the business, which has included significant reductions in overheads, along with an internal review of results from our comprehensive pilot and tests programmes,” noted Arafura MD Gavin Lockyer.
He added that the project improvements had achieved important reductions in funding and processing risks in a capital-constrained environment.
“Combined with our recent submission of the Nolans environmental impact statement, we continue to make solid progress towards commercialisation,” he concluded.
After implementing the improvements, the way forward for Arafura would be to start with the scope and tender for the next phase of engineering design, for final feasibility of the project, and to escalate discussions with potential investors, customers and financiers to align feasibility with expectations.