It’s game on for Northern as rare earths sales to China restart

After a turbulent few months where it lost and then regained the right to claim millions of dollars in research and development grants from the ATO, local heavy rare earths developer, Northern Minerals has sold its second shipment of the year to trading company, Thyssenkrupp, with 114 tonnes exported from Darwin and bound for separation facilities in China that have recently re-started production. 

Northern also sold 22 tonnes of heavy rare earth carbonate back in January this year from its pilot plant in north-eastern WA, signalling an increase in output from its Browns Range project now that it looks like getting back onto a solid financial footing.

Northern Minerals is the only producer of the heavy rare earth element, Dysprosium, outside of China and this latest export shipment is sending a message to Chinese customers that the plant offers a surety of supply via its offtake partner, Thyssenkrupp.

Dysprosium, which is only currently mined in China is utilised in the manufacture of magnets used in commercial scale electric motors, particularly for clean energy generation.

Northern is now in the second year of its pilot plant project at Browns Range as it looks to assess the technical and economic feasibility of a larger scale development of its 100 per cent-owned Browns Range project.

Northern Minerals Managing Director and CEO, George Bauk said: “We continue to see improvements in production at Browns Range as the processing circuit and flowsheet is tested and refined.  With parts of China in lockdown for the coronavirus, there has been a high degree of misinformation as to Chinese production capacity.”

“Our information is that rare earth separation facilities in southern provinces of China that process heavy rare earths have restarted production after extended annual Chinese New Year celebration closures and there has been no discernible change in the demand for our product.”

“Of course, both the Company and thyssenkrupp will continue to closely monitor the situation over the coming weeks and months.

The company looks to be putting all the puzzle pieces together for a larger scale operation with its latest export coming on the back of recent, solid drill results at its nearby Dazzler prospect, where one hole returned 15m grading 2.72 per cent total rare earth oxides from just 20m down hole.

Production plants in Southern China appear to be back on line after an extended Chinese New Year and are looking to support the global EV battery market despite the current economic turmoil due to the coronavirus outbreak - that is good news for Northern.


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