Nolans is a proposed open-pit mining operation located 135 kilometers north-northwest of Alice Springs in Australia. The project is expected to operate for 55 years at a production rate of 14,000 tonnes of rare earth oxide per year and 110,000 tonnes of phosphoric acid per year.
Approval has been granted subject to 16 recommendations outlined in the NT EPA’s report; the recommendations are focused on managing risks to the environment.
Among other things, the NT EPA says Arafura must provide relevant regulators with plans for managing water, erosion and sediment control, as well as eventual mine closure and biodiversity. It must also submit a design for the diversion of Kerosene Camp Creek for independent peer review.
In addition, Arafura will have to engage an independent certifying engineer to oversee the design of facilities for tailings and other waste material. Another recommendation is for Arafura to establish a community reference group to agree on post-mining land uses.
Arafura said the completion of the NT EPA’s assessment is a “key milestone” in advancing Nolans toward a final investment decision. Managing Director Gavin Lockyer noted that the company’s sustainability team and environmental consultants have worked diligently to produce quality documentation supporting the passage of the project through the environmental approval process.
“This should go some way to securing final government approval for the project, enabling construction to move forward, subject to financing and FID. Arafura is also acutely aware of the importance of community acceptance — our social licence to operate — so we will maintain a strong focus on communication and consultation on all aspects of the project,” said Lockyer.
The report from the NT EPA will now go before the Northern Territory’s minister for environment and natural resources, and minister for primary industry and resources, for final consideration.
It will also be reviewed by the Australian government’s Department of the Environment and Energy for assessment under the Environment Protection and Biodiversity Conservation Act. Arafura says it expects this part of the assessment to be completed in February 2018. The company anticipates that the government will make a final environmental decision regarding Nolans during Q1.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.