Northern Minerals’ new $56 million heavy rare earths pilot project in Western Australia’s Kimberly region is under way, set to create around 700 construction and operations jobs if it is successful.
The Browns Range heavy rare earth pilot project is expected to take around 11 months to build, and will require 95 jobs during its initial construction phase.
Northern Minerals plans to conduct a three-year trial, processing 60,000 tonnes of ore per year to produce mixed rare earth carbonate, including dysprosium and terbium.
Dysprosium – a sought after heavy rare earth element used several manufacturing processes – and terbium are key components of energy efficient permanent magnet motors used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and air conditioning.
If the pilot project is successful, the company plans to proceed with a full-scale plant with an expected capital expenditure of $329 million. This is set to create up to 680 new jobs across construction and operations.
Northern Minerals has also signed an agreement with the Jaru people; ensuring at least 20 per cent of the workforce for the full scale project will be from the local Aboriginal community.
WA premier Mark McGowan said the project provides economic development and employment opportunities to the Kimberley region.
“The project proponents have also applied for Federal funding for a dedicated Aboriginal training centre at the mine site, to be run in partnership with Kununurra’s Wunan Foundation,” he said.
“The state government supports this application, and looks forward to the successful completion of the pilot plant project.”
Earlier this year, MACA secured a $6 million contract to mine 180,000 tonnes of ore and associated waste from the Wolverine and Gambit West pits at Browns Range.
First mixed rare earth carbonate production is slated for mid-2018.