Northern Minerals Ltd (ASX:NTU) has decided to partially restart operations at its Browns Range Heavy Rare Earths Pilot Plant Project and recommence exploration across its tenements in the East Kimberley region of WA.
The decision follows the lifting of Commonwealth biosecurity restrictions applied to the Kimberley region as part of COVID-19 control measures, which was the catalyst for NTU placing the project on care-and-maintenance at the end of March 2020.
Initial focus on beneficiation circuit
NTU has commenced planning and logistics to support the restart of operations at the pilot plant which will initially focus on test work in the beneficiation circuit followed by tests in the hydrometallurgical circuit.
The company will also proceed with the mechanical construction and installation of ore-sorting equipment at the front-end of the pilot plant.
Exploration to enhance life of mine
Exploration activity across the Browns Range tenement package will also be ramped-up, with a budget of $4.5-$5 million being allocated for greenfields exploration, further evaluation of identified mineralisation and to boost confidence in resources, with the objective of increasing the overall life of mine potential of the project.
The information gathered from the pilot plant operation to date and also the upcoming test work programs will provide data for the potential Bankable Feasibility Study of a full-scale commercial facility.
NTU executive chairman Colin McCavana said while the board was pleased to be in a position to recommence work at Browns Range, following COVID-19 being brought under control in the state, it had come at a cost to the business.
“Full-scale heavy rare earths mining and processing operation”
McCavana added: “We have taken the difficult decision to only partially restart the Pilot Plant at this stage, but believe it is the best immediate path forward in the Project’s development.
“We will work closely and collaboratively with those members of the team impacted by this decision to redeploy them to other opportunities within the Company, including within our exploration team, where it is possible to do so.
“Our significant commitment to exploration in the next 6-12 months will underpin our ongoing ambition to develop a full-scale heavy rare earths mining and processing operation at Browns Range in the future, which if successful would create significantly greater opportunities for Northern Minerals, the State and Australia in the global context of these critical minerals.”
$22 million placement update
Earlier this week, NTU issued 321,500,000 shares to subscribers under its $22 million placement announced in April 2020.
Out of the 321,500,000 shares issued, 225,000,000 shares were issued to Yuzhen Ma in full repayment of the remaining amounts owing on the convertible notes issued on June 26, 2019 which had an initial aggregate face value of A$7,500,000 (which was reduced to $4,500,000 after completion of Tranche 1 of the placement).
The remaining 96,500,000 shares issued relate to subscription funds received by the company totalling $1.93 million in respect of parts of Tranches 2 and 3 of the placement.
NTU has agreed with the remaining subscribers that the balance of $6.57 million in subscription funds (comprising the remainder of the placement) will be due and payable on or before July 25 2020.