Australian news, and some related international items

Plans for rare earths mine in Northern Territory

Arafura plans to mine, concentrate and chemically process rare earths at the Nolans site, 135km north-northwest of Alice Springs.The project is estimated to create up to 500 jobs in the two-to-three year construction phase, and employ a peak workforce of 300 in the operation phase, which is expected to exceed 40 years.

Construction is estimated to cost $866 million at Nolans, including an estimated $145 million in the Territory and $70 million in Central Australia. It is expected to cost $188 million a year to operate.

The draft EIS and associated specialist studies were on public exhibition for eight weeks last year and attracted 21 submissions, mostly from government departments.

Arafura’s NT general manager Brian Fowler said they were hoping to complete the environmental part of the project this year.

“All matters raised in these submissions were provided to Arafura for consideration and are responded to in the EIS supplement,” he said.

“We look forward to completing the approvals process for the environmental component of the project later this year.”

Rare earths are a collection of 15 elements in the periodic table that are relatively abundant in the earth’s crust, but uncommon to find in quantities that can be recovered economically, Mr Fowler said.

“They are essential to products with significant growth potential in markets associated with the electronics and technology industries, energy efficiency and greenhouse gas reduction,” he said.

Until recently, rare earths were mostly mined, processed and refined in China and, along with Japan and the USA, China accounts for most of the world’s demand for rare earths.

The fastest-growing and highest-value market for rare earths is in rare earth permanent magnets. These magnets are three times stronger than, and one tenth the size of, conventional magnets. They are one of the reasons why everyday items have become smaller, lighter, mobile, more efficient and more affordable.

Arafura Resources is one of only a handful of companies outside China moving towards production.

The company expects to be a major producer of rare earths from its Nolans Project within the next few years.

The project contains all 15 rare earths, but is particularly enriched in the “magnet feed” rare earths: Neodymium (Nd) and Praseodymium (Pr). These will likely account for about 80 per cent of the revenue from Nolans.

Arafura is working towards finalising long-term sales agreements with customers that want certainty of supply from Nolans. The EIS Supplement has been submitted to the NTEPA for consideration and a final recommendation on the EIS will then be submitted to the Minister for Environment and Natural Resources.

The EIS Supplement has also been lodged with the Australian Government.

The report includes information on a change in project scope from producing 20,000 tonnes of rare earth products a year to 14,000 tonnes, as well as producing 110,000 tonnes each year of merchant-grade phosphoric acid for sale to Asian and domestic fertiliser manufacturers.

The draft EIS and a 14-page summary can be accessed on Arafura’s website.



February 22, 2017 - Posted by | Northern Territory, rare earths

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