Alkane Resources’ Dubbo Zirconia Project has been approved by the NSW Planning Assessment Commission.
Located 25 kilometres south of Dubbo, the $1 billion DZP is promoted by Alkane as a strategic and alternate source of zirconium and heavy rare earth products capable of long-term supply.
The mine would extract up to 19.5 million tonnes of rare metals and rare earths ore from a small open cut mine over 20 years at a rate of 1 million tonnes per year and produce 75,000 tonnes of concentrate.
The project will create 450 jobs, with Alkane targeting first production in 2017.
PAC said key issues highlighted during the review and public hearings included concerns about the transport and traffic impacts of the project, management of water, air pollution and hazards and risks, including potential radiation risks associated with the naturally occurring radioactive material within the ore body.
The Commission found radiation risks associated with handling ore were found to be small and managable. PAC said in its existing form, radiation levels are not significant enough to meet the definition of a radioactive substance – requiring regulation.
It said while the material will become more concentrated at certain stages in the processing and will need to be carefully managed and maintained, it is satisfied the conditions of consent require the project to be managed in accordance with the relevant code of practice and safety guide.
PAC said it was satisfied recommendations relating to rail transport and traffic management and noise minimisation have been suitably resolved. This includes requirements to limit truck and rail movements, both in terms of number of vehicles and the hours of arrival and/or departure, for some materials and products.
The Commission said concerns of Taronga Western Plains Zoo, regarding traffic noise impacts on the rhinoceros breeding facilities adjoining the proposed truck transport route have also been resolved, as Alkane has committed to constructing a noise bund along the road adjoining the animal enclosure.
PAC also noted that water impacts including potential issues associated with the handling and management of saline wastewater streams and water coming into contact with the naturally occurring radioactive material on the site have also been addressed.
The Commission said that initially, conditions did not specifically address the need to provide a leak detection system, but PAC considered that an alarm system, triggered by a change in water pressure within the pipe system, is a standard requirement.
As a result PAC asked the Department of Planning to amend the conditions so as to cover this aspect of the water management systems.
Alkane resources is celebrating the green light of its DZP project.
— Alkane Resources (@AlkaneResources) June 2, 2015
Alkane’s managing director Ian Chalmers said approval for the project was the culmination of many years’ of hard work.
“We recognise there are a number of important steps before construction begins but we are delighted to achieve development for the Dubbo Zirconia Project, and are looking forward to taking the next step towards establishing this globally significant operation,” Chalmers said.
“This project will not only mean a transformation for Alkane, but it will have a significant impact on the region, creating some 300 jobs and strategically important resources for Australia.”
In a project progress update, Alkane said Front End Engineering work has been completed by international engineering company Hatch on primary design with tender responses from vendors providing revised capital costs.
The company said this work means a bankable standard document will be developed in the next 3-4 months which will enable updated operating costs and revised revenues for the financing program to be advanced.
Meanwhile, over the last 12 months, Alkane has focused on optimising the flow sheet to decrease the amount of water required, to provide an alternative waste management stream and to improve the quality and yield of DZP products.
Along with zirconium, niobium, yttrium and are earth elements, the company has also decided to produce hafnium at DZP due to escalating demand.