Northern Minerals Ltd‘s (ASX:NTU) (OTCMKTS:NOURF) (FRA:NUN) priority work program for the year centres around the completion of a feasibility study for the construction of a commercial-scale beneficiation plant at the Browns Range Rare Earths Project in Western Australia.
A market opportunity has been identified to pursue the development of a full-scale production operation with processing via a standalone commercial-scale beneficiation plant to produce a saleable heavy rare earth xenotime concentrate product.
The board believes that committing to this accelerated pathway to commercial-scale production represents a lower risk approach compared to pursuing a full-scale version of the Browns Range Pilot Plant, which includes both the beneficiation and hydrometallurgical processing circuits to produce a more refined rare earth carbonate product.
“Time right for commercial-scale production”
Northern Minerals chief executive officer Mark Tory said: “We believe the time is right to accelerate our plans to achieve commercial-scale production, with positive market sentiment for strategic minerals, including heavy rare earths, being strongly reinforced so far in 2021.
“Fundamental to this sentiment is the fact that governments around the world are looking to both secure supply chains for strategic minerals outside of China and introduce policy settings that will ultimately drive demand, particularly through the increased take-up of electric vehicles.”
First cashflow potential
If approved by the board, the company aims to have first potential cashflow from the beneficiation plant in 2023, which is at least two years earlier than otherwise anticipated.
If positive cashflow is achieved, this will assist the company in funding the additional studies required to assess the feasibility of ultimately expanding its processing operations to include the hydrometallurgical plant and downstream product separation.
Northern Minerals is working towards completing a feasibility study for a commercial-scale beneficiation plant at Browns Range over the coming months with the decision whether or not to develop the commercial-scale beneficiation plant expected to be made by the board following completion of the study.
R&D test-work continuing
Research and Development (R&D) test-work is continuing and the company expects the completion and commissioning of an ore sorting system in the second quarter of 2021.
Tory said: “We are continuing to complete our R&D program at the Browns Range Pilot Plant to test the technical and economic feasibility of producing a dysprosium and terbium-rich heavy rare earths concentrate from xenotime ore mined at Browns Range.
“In conjunction with the testing, we plan to complete a feasibility study as a priority this year for the potential development of a commercial-scale beneficiation plant and mining operation.
“We believe that focusing on the beneficiation circuit as a standalone project both simplifies the feasibility study and future funding options, which will allow us to produce a marketable xenotime concentrate product in an accelerated timeframe while continuing to assess the feasibility of ultimately expanding its processing operations to include the hydrometallurgical plant and downstream product separation.”
Previous bench-scale trials of ore sorting of Browns Range material identified the potential to more than double the feed grade to the mill, which is expected to potentially deliver a significant reduction in both operating and capital costs of the beneficiation circuit.
Once the ore sorter circuit is commissioned, R&D test-work will be undertaken on large bulk samples of material at Browns Range to establish the technical and economic viability of the process.
In parallel to the feasibility study on the beneficiation plant, Northern Minerals will continue to ramp-up its ongoing investment in exploration across its Browns Range tenement package, including the immediate commitment to complete a further 8,000 metres of drilling before the end of June 2021.
Along with follow-up drilling of encouraging results from the initial 8,500-metre drilling campaign at the end of 2020, several promising new greenfields targets will be drilled in the second phase of drilling scheduled to commence immediately following the end of the northern wet season.
The company is targeting near-surface, high-grade Dazzler-style mineralisation to significantly grow its mineral resource endowment and increase the potential life of mine at Browns Range to more than 20 years.
Story by ProactiveInvestors
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