JOHANNESBURG (miningweekly.com) – The Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum has given its approval for the Browns Range pilot plant project, which rare earths developer Northern Minerals seeks to develop.
The ASX-listed company reported on Monday that the approval of the Browns Range pilot plant project management plan was a significant step forward in the government approvals process for the proposed plant, which had been designed at a scale of 10% of the full-scale operation.
The approval is an amendment to the project management plan that was previously approved for the full-scale operation.
Northern Star explained that the proposed pilot plant, which was subject to final financing, had a designed front end of 60 000 t/y crushing beneficiation circuit and a 3 200 t/y hydrometallurgical plant aimed at producing 590 t of total rare-earth oxide in a mixed rare earth carbonate, including 49 t/y of dysprosium.
The pilot plant is scheduled to operate for three years, during which time Northern Minerals will make a final decision on a full-scale operation.
The company is working towards a timeline of awarding construction contracts for the pilot plant in early 2017, with mining and concentrate production set to start in the second half of next year.
Last month, China’s Huatai Mining, part of coal trading group Shandong Taizhong Energy, agreed to inject $30-million in equity into Northern Minerals to assist with the construction of the project.
Browns Range will be the only heavy rare earths mine in Australia. Heavy rare earths are more valuable than light rare earths.
Shares in Northern Minerals traded 2.41% higher on Monday, closing at A$0.08 a piece.