The Western Australia Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended that Hastings Technology Metals gain environmental approval for its Yangibana rare earths project.
The EPA has released its report to the public for a two-week appeal period, after which it will be submitted to Minister for Environment Stephen Dawson for the final decision.
Yangibana is not likely to have a significant environmental impact on the project area, according to the EPA’s findings.
The environmental watchdog’s recommendation is conditional on a couple of points, including surveys of flora and vegetation, as well as additional groundwater modelling around areas of sensitive calcrete (hardened sediment rock in the soil) that needs to be protected from clearing and mining.
“The EPA’s environmental assessment for this rare earth proposal considered impacts on flora and vegetation, stygofauna (subterranean fauna living in the groundwater), local water systems and human health and also considered if these impacts were manageable,” EPA chair Tom Hatton said.
The mine has also received a positive recommendation from the Department of Mines, Industry Regulation and Safety (DMIRS), Department of Water and Environmental Regulation (DWER) and key stakeholders.
The Yangibana project, around 250 kilometres north east of Carnarvon in the Gascoyne region, includes the development of five open pits, onsite processing and tailings storage facilities across a roughly 650-square-kilometre area.
It contains significant neodymium, terbium, dysprosium and praseodymium resources (in addition to 12 other elements) and holds a net present value (NPV) of $466 million. Around 85 per cent of the identified value from the site is for neodymium and praseodymium alone.
Hastings has expressed a desire for the project to become the next significant producer of these materials outside of China.
Executive chairman Charles Lew said the decision brought the company a step closer to realising its “construction and production dream”.