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Australia conditionally approves US$533M debt finance package to support Nolans rare earth project

Australia-based Arafura Rare Earths Limited secured conditional Commonwealth Government approval for a debt financing package of US$533 million to progress the Nolans Project in the Northern Territory. Arafura’s Nolans Project is a rare earth ore to oxide mine and processing facility.

The Nolans Project will encompass a mine, process plant (comprising beneficiation, extraction and separation plants) and related infrastructure to be constructed and located at the Nolans site, 135 kilometers north of Alice Springs in Australia’s Northern Territory.

The project’s cornerstone asset is the Nolans Bore rare earths-phosphate-uranium-thorium (REE-P-U-Th) deposit, one of the largest and most intensively explored deposits of its kind in the world.

The deposit contains a JORC 2012-compliant Mineral Resources of 56 million tonnes at an average grade of 2.6% total rare earth oxides (TREO) and 11% phosphate (P2O5) that extends to 215 meters below the surface. Two-thirds of the contained rare earths are in high confidence Measured and Indicated resources.

The Mining Inventory has the potential to support mining and processing operations for 38 years at a design capacity of 340,000 tonnes of concentrate production per annum.

Open-cut mining will selectively target phosphate-rich material types in seven pit stages over the life of mine with ore being fed to a single-stage crushing and milling circuit at the process plant approximately 8.5 kilometers south of the mine.

Milled ore will initially be processed using flotation. This reduces the mass for subsequent processing and produces a phosphate-rich, rare earth-bearing concentrate, as well as tailings. Tailings will be pumped to a Residue Storage Facility (RSF) for containment and long-term management.

The concentrate will be fed to an adjacent extraction plant, where it will be subjected to a number of hydrometallurgical processes including pre-leach, sulphation, water leach, precipitation, dissolution, and purification. The extraction plant will produce 144,000 tonnes of fertilizer-grade (54%) phosphoric acid each year as a by-product of the pre-leach process. This product is earmarked for export and direct sale. Waste streams, including gypsum, from extraction processing will be neutralised before being pumped to an RSF.

Rare earth chloride from the extraction plant will be further refined at an adjacent separation plant into two final rare earth products for export and sale: 4,440 tonnes per annum of NdPr oxide and 470 tonnes per annum of a mixed middle-heavy rare earth (SEG/HRE) oxide.

The project is Australia’s first vertically integrated rare earths operation, where the single site mining and processing operations (including waste disposal) will provide a secure and traceable supply chain to meet domestic and international economic and security interests.

The Commonwealth Government approvals are part of a broader financing package Arafura is currently progressing, which Arafura currently has indicative interest from international and commercial financiers for a further US$550 million of senior debt facilities.

The Commonwealth debt finance package includes a US$125-million limited-recourse senior debt facility under the Commonwealth Government’s A$4-billion Critical Minerals Facility (CMF) (administered by Export Finance Australia (EFA)) and A$150-million limited-recourse senior debt facilities from the Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF).


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