Arafura Resources Limited (ASX:ARU) has completed all metallurgical test-work and associated analysis from an extensive four-year metallurgical pilot program for the Nolans Neodymium-Praseodymium (NdPr) Project in the Northern Territory.
Analysis of the results and incorporation of the findings into the final metallurgical design has also been completed, resulting in several changes to the DFS process design which will improve commissioning, NdPr oxide recovery and reduce risk allowing for shorter commissioning and production ramp-up.
Offtake and project funding activities continue to advance and the process design improvements provide significant risk mitigation outcomes that are strongly aligned with the potential project finance partners objectives.
“Extensive test program”
Arafura managing director Gavin Lockyer said: “I am very pleased to announce the completion of our extensive test program which commenced in 2015.
“Our patented 'Ore to separated NdPr Oxide' process, which started with 12 tonnes of Nolan's material from central Australia and concluded with the product being qualified by global customers with a focus on E-mobility and renewable sectors has now been demonstrated at scale.
“The extensive piloting program clearly differentiates Nolans and together with all permitting being in place is a key factor in it being the only Australian NdPr focused project that is shovel ready.
“These factors are significant positives in the company’s engagement with offtake and project funding partners.”
Pilot program complete
The completion of the final stages of metallurgical testing in 2020 included the piloting of the separation of the rare earth elements from the cerium depleted rare earth chloride and precipitation and calcining of rare earth oxide products.
These separated rare earth oxides where then validated with potential customers and demonstrated the required product purity.
In addition to this separation and product precipitation piloting, a program aimed at the purification of the cerium hydroxide product produced in the previous piloting was undertaken to recover any lost NdPr in the cerium hydroxide product.
All the results of the metallurgical test-work have now been incorporated into the process model and metallurgical basis of the design ready for the commencement of front-end engineering and design (FEED).
Stages of the Nolans pilot program.
Provisional patent applications to protect novel and inventive processes used in the Nolans flowsheet for rare earth sulphate precipitation and rare earth sulphate processing to produce a cerium hydroxide product and purified rare earth chloride were lodged some time ago.
Recently the national patent process was completed with applications lodged in numerous jurisdictions in Australia, Europe, South Africa, North America, China and other Asia-based locations.
Process flowsheet finalisation
Following on from the completion of the analysis of metallurgical test-work the technology team at Arafura has worked to finalise the process flowsheet for the Nolans Project ahead of commencing FEED.
This has incorporated various changes since the DFS aimed at optimising the performance as well as reducing the commissioning, ramp-up and operational risks.
Lockyer said: “The DFS, together with the changes made in the process flowsheet provide further confidence in the commissioning and execution risk of the project and combined with a targeted faster ramp-up to full production, will add to the overall financial viability.”