Arafura Resources’ (ASX:ARU) share price rose over 14 percent on the news that mining at its Nolans rare earths project could extend beyond 30 years.
The company said on Wednesday (September 20) that the mine life estimate resulted from preliminary work for a definitive feasibility study at Nolans, a neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr) project located 135 kilometers northwest of Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory.
The work completed indicates a 34-year mine life, which includes mining and processing a maximum of 5 million tonnes per year for the majority of the time Nolans is in operation. That is half of the proposed maximum mining rate of 10 million tonnes per year outlined in the company’s May 2016 environmental impact statement.
Arafura said that mining inventory and annual strategic production schedules show that Nolans could produce 14,000 tonnes of total rare earth oxide per annum, including 3,600 tonnes of NdPr oxide annually. The steady state beneficiation plant feed rate is estimated to come in at 525,000 tonnes per year during the first 11 years of operation.
According to the company, the recent study does not account for the 21 million tonnes of inferred mineral resources at Nolans; it also does not look at the approximately 9 million tonnes of rare earths mineralization from which lower metallurgical recoveries are predicted using the high-phosphate metallurgical process that is being piloted. The firm plans to prioritize the greater abundance of phosphate-rich plant feed for the processing and recovery of NdPr.
An open-pit mining scenario is proposed at the Nolans site, which contains a fluorapatite rare earths deposit. The operation will be comprised of a mine, processing site, borefield area, accommodation village, interconnecting access roads and utility service corridors. The company said its phosphate extraction and bulk pre-leach pilot plants have demonstrated that processing the phosphate-rich material types in the Nolans Bore resource leads to high recoveries of NdPr and phosphate.
Arafura believes demand for high-quality rare earths products from the automotive, clean energy and electronics sectors will grow by 5 percent per year over the next 10 years. The firm thinks Nolans has the potential to supply 10 percent of the world’s magnet feed demand through the production of NdPr oxide.
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Securities Disclosure: I, Melissa Shaw, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.