Northern Minerals has decided to partially restart operations and exploration at the Browns Range rare earths project in Western Australia following the lift of Commonwealth biosecurity restrictions.
The project was placed on care and maintenance when the Western Australian Government applied the restrictions in March to protect Indigenous communities in the East Kimberley region from coronavirus.
With the restrictions removed, Northern Minerals is now able to restart the Browns Range operations and remobilise three-quarters of its previous workforce.
Browns Range chairman Colin McCavana said while the board was pleased to be able to recommence work now that coronavirus was under control in Western Australia, it had not come without costs to the business.
“We have taken the difficult decision to only partially restart the pilot plant at this stage but believe it is the best immediate path forward in the project’s development,” McCavana said.
“We will work closely and collaboratively with those members of the team impacted by this decision to redeploy them to other opportunities within the company, including within our exploration team, where it is possible to do so.
“Our significant commitment to exploration in the next six to 12 months will underpin our ongoing ambition to develop a full-scale heavy rare earths mining and processing operation at Browns Range, which if successful, would create significantly greater opportunities for Northern Minerals and Australia in the global context of these critical minerals.”
The restart will be focussed on beneficiation circuit and hydrometallurgical circuit testing at the pilot plant, and construction and installation of ore-sorting equipment.
Greenfields exploration is set to be ramped up across the Browns Range tenements with an allocated budget of $4.5–$5 million, which is aimed at increasing overall life-of-mine potential.