Australia’s Northern Minerals makes first rare earth from pilot plant

Australia’s Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) has produced its first rare earth carbonate during commissioning of a pilot processing plant at its Browns Range project, in northern Western Australia.

Around 1,000 tonnes of ore have been crushed at the facility, expected to be fully operational by the end of July, the company said, adding it anticipates starting shipments before the end of September.

Northern Minerals aims to be the first significant world producer of dysprosium outside of China.

It aims to be the first significant world producer outside of China of dysprosium, used by electric vehicle makers in the manufacturing of engine magnets.

Dysprosium is a sought after rare earth that is used by the electric vehicle makers in the manufacturing of industrial magnets that are used in electric engines.

It is also used in wind turbines and other large industrial engine applications.

The research and development phase for the pilot plant began in June and is expected to take up to three years.

Northern Minerals will investigate the technical and economic feasibility of the proposed larger-scale project during R&D phase.

Earlier this week, the company resumed exploration drilling at Browns Range aimed at increasing the expected mine life for a full scale project from the current 11 years to more than 20 years.

The 100%-owned project in the East Kimberley is based on unusual xenotime mineralization, which is rich in high-value heavy rare earth elements such as dysprosium and contains a small fraction of the less valuable light rare earths, which are more difficult and expensive to process.

Browns Range has an ore reserve of 3.75 million tonnes containing nearly 2,300 tonnes of dysprosium oxide within 26,375 tonnes of total rare earth oxide.