Arafura Resources Limited (ASX: ARU) has successfully completed the Rare Earth Separation piloting at its 100%-owned Nolans Neodymium-Praseodymium (NdPr) Project in the Northern Territory.
This was the the seventh and final stage in the company’s flowsheet piloting programme, which commenced in November 2016 with the preparation of 14 tonnes of ore feed from the Nolans Bore deposit.
The Rare Earth Separation pilot programme had two primary objectives:
- To produce NdPr and SEG-HRE (middle and heavy rare earth) products that align with the raw material specifications of customers; and
- To acquire process information that allows the basis of design for the Separation Plant to be updated prior to front-end engineering and design (FEED).
Managing Director Gavin Lockyer said Arafura’s success in being able to produce high-purity separated NdPr oxide is significant as in recent times end users, component manufacturers, financiers and governments attach greater importance to the provenance and traceability of raw materials feeding, and the diversification of, the NdFeB magnet supply chain.
“The results of the pilot are not unexpected and confirm our ability to produce separate rare earth products at Nolans,” Mr Lockyer said.
“Producing final product at a time when countries are re-assessing their supply chains for critical materials such as NdPr oxide puts us in a great position to enhance our reputation as a long-term potential supplier in the market.
“Nolans is the only NdPr-focused development in Australia that has full environmental approvals. This provides international customers with confidence that their product is being sourced from reliable and ethical practices through the full lifecycle of the project including rehabilitation.”
The Australian Government’s recently established Critical Minerals Facilitation Office is working closely with other countries such as Japan, South Korea, Germany and the USA to address supply chain risks and promote ethical sustainable practice by focusing on strategically important projects that have the potential to deliver new NdPr separation and processing capacity in Australia.
Mr Lockyer said Arafura’s high purity NdPr and SEG-HRE products will be used to complement its sales and marketing engagement, which is pivotal in securing project finance.
The second of two solvent extraction (SX) pilot plant circuits operated at ANSTO Minerals (ANSTO) in Sydney over a 14-day period during January. This circuit produced a refined liquor in which NdPr constitutes >99.9% of the total contained rare earth elements (TREE).
This followed the earlier operation of the pilot plant over a seven-day period in December from which a refined liquor was produced where SEG-HRE comprised >99.5% of the TREE.
These liquors are being processed using conventional methods to prepare final products – NdPr oxide and SEG-HRE carbonate – for assessment by potential customers in Arafura’s target jurisdictions using conventional processing steps. The Company’s marketing efforts are aimed at placing a substantial proportion of the project’s planned production of NdPr oxide into binding offtake agreements to support project financing.