Arafura Resources awards Hatch an engineering design contract for the Nolans NdPr project

Arafura Resources awards Hatch an engineering design contract for the Nolans NdPr project

Arafura Resources Limited, based in Australia, has awarded Hatch a contract to provide engineering and procurement services for the hydrometallurgical plant of Nolans’ NdPR project.

The Nolans project in Australia will include a mine, a process plant (including enrichment, extraction and separation plants) and related infrastructure to be built and located at the Nolans site, 135 kilometers north of Alice Springs, in the Northern Territory of ‘Australia.

The project is supported by low-risk mineral resources that have the potential to provide a significant portion of the global demand for NdPr, according to the company. This is a globally important and strategic NdPr project which, if developed, could become a major supplier of these critical minerals to the high performance NdFeB permanent magnet market.

The key resource of the project is the Nolans Bore rare earth-phosphate-uranium-thorium (REE-PU-Th) field, one of the largest and most intensively explored fields of its kind in the world. The deposit contains a JORC 2012 compliant mineral resource of 56 million tons with an average grade of 2.6% total rare earth oxides (TREO) and 11% phosphate (P2or5) extending up to 215 meters below the surface. Two thirds of the rare earths contained are resources measured and indicated with high confidence.

Mineral resources at Nolans.

The most abundant rare earth-containing minerals at Nolans Bore are apatite, monazite (both phosphate minerals) and allanite (a silicate mineral). These mineral species present a highly desirable rare earth mix at Nolans Bore, with 26.4% of the mix represented by NdPr.

The open pit mining will selectively target the types of phosphate-rich materials in seven stages of the pit over the course of the mine’s life with the ore fed to a single-stage crushing and grinding circuit at the process plant at approximately 8, 5 kilometers south of the mine.

The ground ore will initially be processed by flotation. This reduces the bulk for further processing and produces a concentrate rich in phosphates, containing rare earths, as well as sterile. The tailings will be pumped into a waste storage facility (RSF) for containment and long-term management.

The concentrate will be fed to an adjacent extraction facility, where it will undergo a series of hydrometallurgical processes including pre-leaching, sulfation, water leaching, precipitation, dissolution and purification. The extraction plant will produce 144,000 tons of phosphoric acid for fertilizers (54%) each year as a by-product of the pre-leaching process. This product is for export and direct sale. Waste streams, including gypsum, from the extraction process will be neutralized before being pumped into an RSF.

The rare earth chloride from the extraction facility will be further refined in an adjacent separation facility into two rare earth end products for export and sale: 4,440 tons per year of NdPr oxide and 470 tons per year of NdPr oxide. medium-heavy mixed rare earths (SEG / HRE) oxide.

Hatch was selected by three international engineering firms through a competitive process to ensure full project understanding, costing, risk and liability management.

This next phase of the project will see front-end engineering design (FEED) work completed over the next 9 months to advance equipment engineering and procurement. The result of this work will allow the company to procure a fixed price construction contract which will be the basis for making a final investment decision (FID) in the second half of 2022.

In parallel, the Integrated Project Management Team, with KBR Pty Ltd and Wave International, will carry out the rest of the project as the Company prepares for Nolans’ final investment decision (FID), with works that include:

  • Incorporating ESG best practice measures to ensure we meet our commitments to our global customers;

  • Scoping the Benefit Plant and the Sulfuric Acid Plant which will be awarded as fixed-price Engineering, Procurement and Construction contracts in conjunction with the tender for the construction of hydrometallurgical plants;

  • Ensure that all early construction works are ready for tender in conjunction with the tender for the construction of hydrometallurgical plants;

  • Completing the detailed mine design for the initial mining period to allow for the procurement of contract mining services following the FID; And

  • Update the budget and overall project control program to reflect the final project and tender proposals and to support FID.

Roskill notes that, despite the potential, challenges associated with rare earth mineralization and project financing remain, with the project requiring an estimated $ 768 million start-up capital for development and commissioning.

In 2021, it is estimated that China will account for 57% of the extracted supply and 84% of the refined production of rare earths. This has encouraged governments around the world to establish safe supply chains for critical raw materials. Despite work to diversify the supply chain, particularly at the extracted sourcing stage, Roskill believes that refined supply and subsequent downstream processing will remain China-focused.

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