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Northern Minerals advances Browns Range ore sorting

Northern Minerals is preparing to ramp-up ore sorting, product separation and exploration initiatives for its Browns Range heavy rare earth project, near Halls Creek in the East Kimberley region of WA.

The move to progress the project comes after the company received commitments for a $30 million placement priced at 6.2 cents per share split into three roughly equal tranches, the first of which is due to be received on 23 July.

Northern is continuing the commissioning of the Browns Range pilot plant and is investigating options to improve its technical performance.

Management said that ore sorting could be a game-changer, with testing last year increasing the mill head grade to 2% total rare earth oxides, around double the grade achieved without sorting.

Northern has now started the front-end engineering and design for the ore sorting systems, with selection of the preferred ore sorter from a shortlist, to be made within the next week.

The chosen ore sorting system is then expected to be operational by the middle of next year.

The company is also investigating the potential to improve its margins by adding separation technology to its existing processing capabilities.

A mixed heavy rare earth carbonate currently produced at the Browns Range pilot plant is sent to China for separation into individual higher value rare earth oxides, like dysprosium and terbium.

Test work for the separation technology will be carried out overseas as there are no heavy rare earth separation technologies currently operational in Australia.

Northern also intends to carry out further exploration at Browns Range to potentially increase project mine life.

At Dazzler, the company has identified several follow-up targets for geophysical surveys and drilling during the second half of 2019.

Earlier this year, portable XRF assaying of RC drilling at Dazzler returned a top result of 38 metres grading 2.35% yttrium from 19m down-hole including an even higher-grade section of 18m @ 4.84% yttrium from 22m.

Yttrium is a “light” rare earth element but almost always found in combination with the “lanthanide elements”, including the heavy rare earths dysprosium, neodymium and europium.

The element has proven to be an excellent pathfinder to rare earth mineralisation at the Browns Range project.

Northern has also started metallurgical test work on core samples from Dazzler to test the ore’s recoverability through the plant.

The Dazzler deposit currently holds an inferred mineral resource estimate of 144,000 tonnes grading 2.23% total rare earth oxide, which is more than three times the average grade of Browns Range mineralisation currently being mined and processed.

Excluding Dazzler, the Browns Range project has a global mineral resource of 9.07 million tonnes grading 0.63% total rare earth oxides.

The ore sorting, product separation and exploration initiatives are due to the increased interest in the company and project, due to the ongoing trade tension between the US and China, with the latter being the world’s largest producer of processed rare earths.

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