Northern Minerals has launched a major drilling campaign at its Browns Range heavy rare earths project in WA’s East Kimberley region, with 8,000m of the 16,500m RC program planned for the financial year set to be completed before Christmas. It has also recently started building a $5.9 million ore sorter at the front end of the project’s pilot plant that is flagged as a low-cost method of potentially doubling the ore feed grade.
ASX-listed heavy rare earths player, Northern Minerals, has launched a major drilling campaign at its Browns Range heavy rare earths project in WA’s East Kimberley region, with more than 8,000m of the approximate 16,500m RC program planned for the financial year set to be completed before Christmas. It has also recently started building a $5.9 million ore sorter at the front end of the project’s pilot plant that is flagged as a low-cost method of potentially doubling the ore feed grade.
The Perth-based company says it has committed a $5 million budget for the 2020-21 drilling blitz that is aimed at increasing the heavy rare earth mineral resource estimate and extending the life-of-mine potential at Browns Range.
RC holes following up on notable intersections returned from the Dazzler, Banshee South, Polaris and Rogue prospects plus the drill testing of several greenfields targets have been earmarked for the current exploration program.
Assays from the exploration work, together with pilot-plant results from beneficiation and metallurgical test work on Browns Range ore, will feed into a possible project feasibility study down the track.
Research and development test work resumed at the $70 million Browns Range pilot plant in August after Commonwealth biosecurity restrictions emanating from the COVID-19 response culminated in a five-month care and maintenance period.
Northern Minerals says the beneficiation and metallurgical test work findings will go towards its three-year pilot-level studies on the economic and technical feasibility of a commercial, larger-scale development at Browns Range.
The company has also got the ball rolling on the construction of the ore sorting system, which it sees as a potential game-changer for Browns Range by generating higher ore feed grades.
The ore sorter is designed to “concentrate” ore prior to the beneficiation circuit by selecting ore and rejecting waste using X-ray transmission. The upshot for Northern Minerals may be that the feed grade more than doubles leading to higher production rates, and at lower costs.
CAPEX for the procurement, installation and commissioning of the ore sorter has been estimated at $5.9 million. Construction on the structural and mechanical equipment has commenced and commissioning is scheduled for mid-2021.
Once the ore sorting system has been commissioned, Northern Minerals plans to run additional test work at the pilot-plant scale on all ore types to establish baseline data on feed grade improvements.
Northern Minerals Chief Executive Officer, Mark Tory said: “This significant commitment to exploration in the next nine months is designed to underpin the company’s ongoing ambition to realise the potential of Browns Range beyond the pilot plant.”
“A key consideration of any future feasibility study on a commercial, large-scale operation is building our mineral resource to the point the inventory would support at least 20 years of heavy rare earth production.”
Northern Minerals hopes to become a key producer of the heavy rare earth element dysprosium, and operator of the only heavy rare earths mine outside of the dominant supply force of China.
As part of the three-year pilot assessment of a possible large-scale development at Browns Range that began a couple of years ago, the company has been producing a mixed heavy rare earth carbonate, the precursor product to downstream separation processing.
Production of the mixed carbonate has provided Northern Minerals with the opportunity to gain supply experience via the small-scale export to offtake partner, German multinational thyssenkrupp.
The pilot plant trial also paves the way for the testing and evaluation of various project enhancement initiatives including ore sorting and the separation of the product into individual rare earth oxides.
Dysprosium is an essential ingredient in the production of dysprosium neodymium-iron-boron magnets found in clean energy, military and high-tech applications.
Is your ASX listed company doing something interesting? Contact: email@example.com