Northern Minerals Making Progress at Browns Rare Earths Project

Critical Metals

After a successful share purchase plan, Northern Minerals now has the funds to increase exploration at its Browns Range heavy rare earths project.

ASX-listed Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) announced that after a successful share purchase plan (SPP) it will now be able to increase exploration at its Browns Range project. 

The company’s goal is to extend the potential life of the Western Australia-based heavy rare earths project from 11 years to 20 years.

At the end of January, Northern Minerals extended the SPP to Monday (February 12). In doing so, it has been able to raise an additional $1 million (from $10 million to $11 million). The company also said it has received a second drawdown of US$5.4 million from a fund in New York called Brevet.

Northern Minerals is already planning out drill programs for Browns Range, and says they are scheduled to begin in the June quarter of this year. As mentioned, drilling will be aimed at extending the life of the project — work will take place at several new targets and prospects, as well as at existing deposits.

The company also gave an update on the pilot plant under construction at Browns Range, noting that work continues to move forward despite heavy rains that have caused minor delays. Electrical installation and piping work has commenced, putting completion on track for June 30.

Brown’s Range is located 160 kilometers southeast of Halls Creek. Following a review in 2016, Northern Minerals developed a new business plan to support the project’s pathway to production. The plan separates the project into three development stages: test pilot plant, develop project and build full scale. 

Its initial stage, currently in progress, will see the construction of a three-year, 60,000-tonne-per-year pilot plant. It will produce 49,000 kilograms of dysprosium in 590,000 kilograms of total rare earth oxide per year. This stage is important to de-risk the operation by testing the process, and improving knowledge of grade control and the project’s geology.

According to Northern Minerals, Browns Range is positioned to become the first significant dysprosium producer outside of China. Dysprosium is one of 17 chemical elements classified as rare earths, and was first discovered in 1886 as an impurity in erbia, the oxide of erbium. Pure samples of dysprosium were not produced until the 1950s, making it truly rare.

Dysprosium has a bright, silvery-metallic appearance. Low in toxicity, the metal has no known biological role and is used extensively in neodymium-based magnets. The addition of dysprosium helps neodymium-based magnets function at higher temperatures, under which conditions they would likely demagnetize. These magnets are used in clean-energy and high-technology solutions.

Moving forward, Northern Minerals also plans to complete a bankable feasibility study for Browns Range, in addition to continuing to build a full-scale operation.

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Securities Disclosure: I, Nicole Rashotte, hold no direct investment interest in any company mentioned in this article.

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