Heavy rare-earths developer Northern Minerals has slotted important pieces of the puzzle into place as its Browns Range project near Halls Creek approaches completion in the June quarter. Final equipment components from China are being delivered to the pilot plant near Halls Creek with installation also running smoothly and first product shipments set for the September quarter.
Perth-based Northern Minerals said in a market update this week that operational readiness for the Browns Range project, which is on track for a ribbon cutting ceremony in the June quarter, is progressing well with the appointment of key personnel.
Operations systems and commissioning plans and the procurement of key supply contracts are all running smoothly, according to management.
The company said strategic pieces on its chessboard were being deployed as China’s Sinosteel MECC delivers final equipment components to Browns Range for the pilot plant, with Primero Group also making good progress on the installation of equipment components.
The ASX-listed junior said, ‘The operations team have commenced work on development of operations systems, procurement of key supply contracts and together with the project team have advanced the development of the commissioning plan for the project.’
Browns Range is set to step up in status on becoming Australia’s only heavy rare earths mine and possibly the only one outside of China to produce the in-demand rare earth known as “dysprosium”. Dysprosium is used in the manufacturing of permanent magnets used in electric vehicle engines, wind turbines and other large industrial motors.
The company has promoted Tom Hadley to General Manager for the Browns Range project. Mr Hadley, a metallurgist, has 26-years of experience in the construction, operation, flowsheet development and management of rare earths, base metals, vanadium and gold projects in China, Australia, the Dominican Republic, New Zealand and Malaysia.
Hadley was previously with Lynas Corporation as operations manager for the Mount Weld Rare Earths mine and steps up from the role of Northern Minerals process manager. He will take up his new position in mid-February.
Other key personnel have been engaged for management roles in research and development, process engineering, chemistry and maintenance.
Northern Minerals managing director and CEO, George Bauk, said, “These key appointments provide strength and key rare earths experience as we move forward towards the production phase of the project.”
“With installation on track for completion in the June quarter and first product shipments in the September quarter, we are excited to have a former senior employee with significant rare earths operational experience return to the project.”
The 60,000 tonne a year pilot project near Hall’s Creek - initially envisaged to process at a rate of about 10% of a full-scale operation – is scheduled to operate for three years.
Northern Minerals has announced plans to expand the life of the full-scale expanded project from an initially contemplated 11 year to 20-plus years.
The company reminded shareholders that its share purchase plan, inviting eligible shareholders to acquire up to $15,000 worth of shares for 7.8c per share, closes on January 31.