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Redundancies expected at mining project due to COVID-19

Northern Minerals
Northern Minerals

A resources company will shed several mine workers at its $53 million development in Western Australia’s Kimberley region.

Northern Minerals has decided to only partially restart work at its Browns Range Heavy Rare Earths Pilot Plant Project in Tanami, about 700km east of Broome.

Quarter of workforce axed

Operations were placed in care and maintenance back in March 2020 when the Chinese coronavirus (COVID-19) shutdown began.

Since COVID-19 restrictions have eased about 75 per cent of the proponent’s previous employees will return to work before the end of July.

“We have taken the difficult decision to only partially restart the pilot plant at this stage but believe it is the best immediate path forward in the project’s development,” Northern Minerals executive chairman Colin McCavana said in a public statement.

The decision means up to 24 employees will be out of work.

“There are some positions that are likely to become redundant,” the company said.

Redeployment possible

The proponent will try to redeploy some affected staff to other areas of the business.

“We will work closely and collaboratively with those members of the team impacted by this decision to redeploy them to other opportunities within the company, including within our exploration team, where it is possible to do so,” McCavana said.

Work resumes

The company has resumed planning and logistics to help restart testing of the plant’s beneficiation and hydro metallurgical circuits. It will also continue constructing and installing ore-sorting equipment at the front end of the plant.

Once operational, the pilot plant will process 60,000 tonnes per annum (tpa) of ore at at 1.19 per cent total rare earth oxides (TREO) as well as 3,200tpa of xenotime concentrate at 20 TREO through the hydrometallurgical process. This is promised to produce a final product of 49 tonnes of dysprosium in 590 tonnes of TREO each year.

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The full scale beneficiation plant is expected to process 585,000tpa of ore to produce a high grade mineral concentrate that is feed into the hydrometallurgical plant. The process will include a crushing and grinding circuit, and a mix of wet high gradient magnetic separation and flotation.

This is promised to recover 91 per cent dysprosium and 87 per cent TREO, at a 20 per cent TREO mineral concentrate grade. The final product will be 279 tonnes of dysprosium with 3127 tonnes of TREO.

About 700 jobs are promised to be created throughout the lifespan of the project.

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