THE WA Government has granted environmental approval for the proposed mine and ore processing facilities at Northern Minerals’ Browns Range project, facilitating the process of secondary approvals and completion of the project’s feasibility study.
Browns Range, 160km southeast of Halls Creek, is one of the highest grade heavy rare earth (HRE) resources in the world. It has significant dysprosium resources (hosted in xenotime), which is used in nuclear reactors, data storage applications and the alloy formula Terfonel-D.
“Receiving the primary environmental approval is a significant step forward in the project’s development and clears the path for Browns Range to become the first significant dysprosium producer outside of China,” Northern Minerals managing director George Bauk said.
“The focus is now on finalising the project’s feasibility study and securing offtake and financing to progress the project through construction in 2015 and commissioning in 2016.”
Browns Range was first referred to the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in May 2013. In August 2014 the EPA recommended the Environment minister approve the project, stating that it could be managed in accordance with the EPA’s environmental objectives subject to its recommended conditions.
The Department of Environment also assessed the project and deemed it “Not a Controlled Action”, which means it does not need to be assessed and approved under the EPBC Act 1999.
As such, Northern Minerals would progress the project through works approval and licences from the Department of Environment Regulation, licences to contrast bores and take water from the Department of Water, and a mining proposal and project management plan from the Department of Mines and Petroleum.
The Browns Range JORC resource estimate was increased in mid October and now stands at 8.47 million tonnes grading 0.62 per cent total rare earth oxides for 52.4 million kilos of total rare earth oxides.