Since the launch of their Pilot Plant eight months ago, Northern Minerals has now produced 7,200kh of rare earth carbonate as a teaser for things to come. With the Plant operating at roughly 10% of its full capabilities when expanded to full scale, interest in Northern Minerals is shaping the company as a national brand of the future.
In the recently published 2019 Infrastructure Priority List, the Brown’s Range region where the Pilot Plant is located near the WA-NT border was flagged as an area of “Priority Initiative” for greater accessibility in the 168-page report published by Infrastructure Australia.
The proposed initiatives will see upgrades to gravel roads surrounding the Plant as well as improvements to regional airstrips which are the main method of transit for the Plant operators.
As an independent statutory body with a mandate to prioritise and progress nationally significant infrastructure, the attention given to Brown’s Range by Infrastructure Australia is worth noting. The rigorous prioritisation process is in place to ensure there is a highly credible pipeline of nationally significant infrastructure projects. With Northern Minerals now the only heavy rare earth producer in Australia, the project’s high priority cannot be understated.
In the eight months, Northern Minerals have been producing rare earth carbonates, the company have collected valuable data to feed back into the processing flowsheet, incrementally improving the rate of production and the quality of product.
Within the spectrum of rare earths is the element Dysprosium, of which Northern Minerals are the only Australian producer. A crucial element within electric vehicle batteries, the world supply of Dysprosium is largely dominated by China, which produces 98% of the world’s supply.
With a significant resource of rare earths stockpiled and ready to be mined, Northern Minerals is positioned to be a unique source of Dysprosium which can allow offtake partners to reduce their supply reliance on China.
As Northern Minerals continues the commissioning of their Pilot Plant at Brown’s Range, the data being compiled continues to get the company closer to expansion of the Plant to full scale which would enable ten times the Pilot Plant’s production.
In doing so, and with a mine life of more than 20 years, it is understandable why infrastructure around the Plant are being designated as Priority Initiatives as Northern Minerals gears towards becoming the world’s most significant producer of Dysprosium outside of China.