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Northern Minerals' trial pit at Halls Creek in W.A

Northern Minerals eye big expansion of heavy rare earth resource

The excavation of two open pits at Browns Range for Northern Minerals’ heavy rare earths project near Halls Creek has given the company new insights into the mineralisation and the news is all good.

Northern Minerals mining contractor MACA has already dug up and stockpiled more than 180,000 tonnes of ore from the Wolverine and Gambit West pits at Browns Range in the East Kimberley. This is all the ore that will be needed over the three-year life of the pilot plant, which is racing towards commissioning in the first half of next year.

The company’s geologists and specialist consultants have used the opportunity to get below the surface at Browns Range to update their structural model for the deposit, which is an unusual and valuable type of rare earth mineralisation known as xenotime.

Northern Minerals reported to the ASX this week the exercise had allowed a better understanding of the key structural controls on the mineralisation, which suggested that paydirt was likely to continue at depth, below the current extent of drilling.

Additional drilling at the western end of the Wolverine prospect, which is open along strike, will be undertaken as part of the feasibility study for the full-scale project, which is planned to operate at 10-times the throughput of the pilot plant.

The company reported that its increased confidence in deep mineralisation, along with exciting new results from reconnaissance exploration around Browns Range, had led it to beef up its ambitions for the discovery of additional heavy rare earth resources.

Northern Minerals currently has an exploration target of between 4.2 million tonnes and 8.8 million tonnes grading between 0.25% to 0.52% total rare earth oxide based on extending the current mineral resources at the two open pits and three other deposits nearby.

If the top end of this target was achieved, it would keep Browns Range running for over a decade even at full scale. Reconnaissance results released this week suggest that the company has barely scratched the surface.

Field checking of several new targets within the Browns Range project area, identified in part by the new interpretation of structural controls on mineralisation, returned five samples with more than 1% total rare earth oxide or “TREO”, with one result up to 3.57% TREO. This is several times the average resource grade of just 0.63%.

Northern Minerals Managing Director and CEO, George Bauk, said: “The Browns Range pilot project under development is expected to provide us with the operating knowledge for opening up the region in the next phase. While the current mineral resources support an 11-year mine life if the larger scale project proceeds, we are confident that additional resources are available that may allow for further expansion or extension of the planned mine life. This fits with our goal of making Browns Range a globally significant Dysprosium operation that will be a key part of the electric car revolution.”

Browns Range is not only Australia’s first heavy rare earth development, but potentially the first significant producer of Dysprosium outside of China, which makes it a unique way for investors for gain exposure to the global tech metals boom.

Dysprosium is a vital ingredient in the manufacturing of large industrial magnets that are used in the manufacturing of electric engines for cars, wind turbines and other industrial applications. 

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