Northern Minerals has approved development of a $56 million pilot plant at the Browns Range heavy rare earths project in Western Australia.
The Perth-based company will use the pilot plant to assess the economic feasibility of a full-scale project. It also forms part of an ongoing feasibility for the Browns Range prospect.
With a $56 million capital cost, Northern plans to operate the pilot project for an initial three-year period. The processing plant is being constructed with a throughout of 60,000 tonnes per annum for three years, about 10 per cent of the size of the proposed full-scale development.
Construction of the project will be 11 months, according to Northern, with first mixed rare earth carbonate production expected in mid-2018.
The pilot plant project is forecast to produce 1719 tonnes of mixed rare earth carbonate containing 148.2 tonnes of dysprosium over the three-year trial.
Northern managing director George Bauk said the investment decision represented a significant new chapter for the company, which was formed more than 10 years ago.
“The pilot plant development will help us continue to assess the economic and technical feasibility of a larger full-scale development,” Bauk said.
“Incidentally, it also provides an opportunity to gain production experience and surety of supply for our offtake partner, and propels Northern Minerals towards being the first dysprosium producer outside China.”
Sinosteel MECC will undertake the engineering, procurement and construction of the pilot plant. Its modules will be constructed in China and then transported and installed on site in Australia.