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The Browns Range rare earths project near Halls Creek in WA

Northern Minerals in full swing at Browns Range

Northern Minerals have leapt into development at their Browns Range heavy rare earths project with the start of a 2,800 metre RC grade control drilling program.

The company last month approved the $56 million pilot plant development, which will effectively be Australia’s first heavy rare earths mine.

The Browns Range project, about 160km southeast of Halls Creek, has been designed to operate for three years at 10% of the capacity of a future full-scale development. It will process 60,000 tonnes per annum and is expected to produce 148,200kg of “Dysprosium” in 1,719,000kg of total rare earth oxide over the three-year pilot phase.

In a statement to the ASX, Northern Minerals this week reported that grade control drilling had begun on a nominal 6 metre x 5 metre grid at the proposed Wolverine pit and the high-grade core of the Gambit West pit. The grid will expand to 12.5 metres x 5 metres in areas where there is already greater confidence in grade continuity.

Elsewhere on site, the company has also begun an expansion of the accommodation camp from 21 to 49 rooms.

The mine plant is already under construction in China by Sinosteel MECC, with modules to be shipped to site in September for assembly by a local contractor. This approach allows for a fast track development and commissioning of the pilot project in just under a year.

Mining and bulk earthworks are scheduled to begin in June under a $10 million contract recently awarded to MACA. All of the ore to be treated over the three-year pilot project (180,000 tonnes) will be mined in a single mining campaign and stockpiled for treatment.

Dysprosium is a high value, heavy rare earth in increasing demand for use in electric vehicles. China is currently home to all significant sources of supply, however Browns Range is on track to become a globally significant supply alternative. 

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