Northern Minerals Ltd (ASX:NTU) continues pilot plant operations at the Browns Range Rare Earth Project bordering Western Australia and the Northern Territory and expected to achieve nameplate capacity rates during the June 2020 quarter.
The pilot project has been developed in order to assess the economic and technical feasibility of a larger-scale development.
As it is the first xenotime-hosted rare earth development anywhere, it is important that the company fully understands and tests the metallurgical processes.
Ore sorting on track for mid-2020
During the December 2019 quarter, Northern Minerals progressed the approvals process for installation and operation of the ore sorter.
The detailed design is complete, all key items of equipment have been procured and equipment and installation contracts are being finalised.
Once approvals have been received, the company will be on track to have the ore sorter system installed and commissioning underway by mid-2020.
Thyssenkrupp sales underway
Following execution of a new offtake agreement in August 2019 with ThyssenKrupp Materials Trading Gmbh for 100% of offtake from the pilot project, the company has been working through the documentation process to enable export sales.
Export shipments have commenced to ThyssenKrupp, with shipments expected to increase in size and frequency following the end of the wet season.
March quarter activities include the following:
- Browns Range Pilot Plant performance update;
- Potential update on the review of the company’s R&D claim by AusIndustry;
- Update on developments with respect to enhancement projects, including ore sorting and ore separation;
- Dazzler mineral resource estimate upgrade; and
- Follow-up drilling at various prospects.
Rare earth scoping study
Positive results were reported during the December quarter from K-Tech’s bench-scale test work in Florida which showed that the Stage-1 continuous ion-exchange (CIX) process has been successful.
Regeneration was effective and the composition of the regeneration solution showed that final non-RE/RE ratio is in the range that would allow for the regeneration solution to be used as the feed for the Stage-2 continuous ion chromatography (CIC) step, where the initial separation of the rare earth begins.
Stage-2 bench testing simulating the first phase of the CIC has also been successful, as regeneration solution from Stage-1 has been introduced to the CIC test columns, demonstrating that group separations of REs have occurred.
If the bench-scale test work and scoping study is successful, Northern Minerals intends to undertake a pilot test work program and install the technology as part of the current pilot plant project.
This will enable the company to sell separated rare earth products to a larger and more diverse end-user customer base.