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A permanent magnet built using the heavy rare earth Dysprosium

Gov approvals falling like dominoes for Australia's first heavy rare earths mine

The approvals to build Australia’s first heavy rare earths plant are falling like dominoes for Perth based Northern Minerals with the Department of Mines and Petroleum giving the green light for the company to develop their Browns Range rare earths project near Halls Creek in the north of W.A.

The company recently announced that the Department of Mines and Petroleum has approved its mining proposal at Browns Range, clearing the way for 60,000 tonne a year pilot plant to be built.

The approval of the mining proposal is a major step forward in the government approval process and one of the last hurdles necessary before the start of mining operations.

Northern Minerals have also applied for a works approval and licence with WA’s Department of Environment Regulation with an outcome expected in January.

The proposed pilot plant, which would process at a rate of about 10% of the full-scale operation, is scheduled to operate for three years.

Whilst it is very much a research and development project designed to build a test case for the construction of a full scale plant, it is quite possible that it will still make good money along the way, thereby easing the financial burden to build the permanent larger plant.

It will substantially de-risk subsequent stages of development and allow Northern Minerals to become established as one of the world’s only suppliers of a heavy rare earth known as Dysprosium outside of China.

Dysprosium, which is several times more valuable than light rare earths, is an essential ingredient in the manufacturing of permanent magnets that are in critical demand by makers of electric vehicles wind turbines and other large industrial motors.

Managing Director of Northern Minerals, George Bauk, said “We are firmly on track to make a final investment decision in mid-Q1 next year. We continue to tick all the right boxes in our goal to become a globally significant dysprosium producer.”

The grant of mining proposal approval is the latest in a string of positive news announcements for Northern Minerals that are rapidly moving Browns Range from an ambitious plan to reality.

In August, the company secured a $30m equity funding deal with Chinese company Huatai Mining to cover a large part of the pilot plant construction. More recently, they entered into a $60m agreement with Sinosteel MECC to build the pilot plant, with the option to defer up to $12 million in payments until the plant is producing.

Northern Minerals is already at work on site, with an infill drilling program getting underway last week ahead of the final investment decision.

The company is also drilling a high-impact prospect known as Banshee South, 10kms from Browns Range.

 Banshee South is one of many untested targets on Northern Minerals ground that add potential for further discoveries of heavy rare earths at the project. 

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