Australia approves pilot plant for first heavy rare earths mine

Australia approves pilot plant for first heavy rare earths mine

Australia is a step closer to developing its first heavy rare earth mine after approving Northern Minerals’ (ASX:NTU) pilot plant for its rare earth deposit.

The Western Australian Department of Mines and Petroleum (DMP) approved the Browns Range Pilot Plant Project Management Plan last week.

Once constructed, the Browns Range mine will be the only heavy rare earths mine in Australia, with heavy earths trading at higher prices than light rare earths on the global market.

Though the project still needs to secure final financing, Huatai Mining, part of Shandong Taizhong Energy, agreed to inject AUS$30 million to assist with construction of the project.

The 60,000tpa pilot plant will produce a mix of rare earth oxides at a 10% scale of the mine’s proposed output. The pilot plant will run for three years before a final decision on a full-scale processing is made.

Northern Minerals said the approval is a significant step forward in the government approvals process for the project. It is expecting to award contracts for the construction of the pilot plant in early 2017 with mining and concentrate production in the second half of 2017.