The Browns Range mining camp in the north of W.A

Northern Minerals achieves key Government approval for Australia’s first heavy rare earths mine.

Australia is a step closer to having its first heavy rare earths mine following WA government approval for a pilot plant at Northern Minerals’ Browns Range project in W.A.

The Department of Mines and Petroleum this week approved the Perth-based company’s project management plan for a 60,000 tonnes-a-year pilot plant that will turn out a host of rare earths with a particular focus on a mineral known as “Dysprosium.”

Dysprosium is a heavy rare earth that is used in the manufacturing of large industrial magnets that are typically used to power electric vehicles, wind turbines and a raft of other large industrial motors.

The approval for Browns Range is the latest in a string of good news for Northern Minerals who look more likely now than ever to get the project off the ground after Chinese interests committed $30m towards the project last month via an equity injection into the Northern Minerals.

The Chinese interests are represented in Australia by Huatai Mining, the Australian investment arm of Chinese coal producer Shandong Taizhong Energy.

 Huatai is set to emerge with up to 31% of Northern Minerals and will be a key partner in developing Browns Range as the world’s first significant producer of Dysprosium outside of China.

Browns Range will be the first mine in Australia focused on the production of Dysprosium, which trades at two to three times the price of light rare earths.

The pilot plant will be approximately 10% of the size of the full scale operation and it has been designed to produce 49 tonnes of Dysprosium per year within 590 tonnes of total rare earth oxide produced each year.

It is essentially the first stage in a planned development that could ultimately see a decision taken to establish a full-scale plant after 3 years, which would take a further 2 years to build.  

Northern Minerals Managing Director, George Bauk, said “The approval of our project management plan is a key part of the overall approval process towards the commencement of mining operations.” 

“The plan is used to identify potential major safety risks for the proposed operations, and acts as a starting point for developing ongoing safety management strategies and commitments to address those risks.”

Northern Minerals is continuing to work on the additional required subordinate approvals, which are all expected to be granted well in advance of the commencement of construction.” Said Mr Bauk

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