Rare earth mining

Lynas Rare Earths has announced that it will deliver a $500 million expansion of its Western Australian Mt Weld mine, using a range of upscaled processing equipment.  

The expansion project aims to meet accelerating market demand for rare earth materials and NdFeB magnets, which is forecast to grow from 130,000 tonnes of NdFeB magnets consumed in 2020 to 265,000 tonnes in 2030. 

Using known technology, the project is set to deliver efficiency improvements, enhanced sustainability and a platform for further capacity increases. 

Key elements of the expansion include: 

  • Crushing and grinding infrastructure 
  • Additional flotation circuits 
  • Apatite leach circuit 
  • Concentrate dewatering circuit 
  • Concentrate drying and load out facilities 
  • Reagent facilities 
  • A state-of-the-art high recovery water recycling circuit from the tailings dam 
  • Additional bore water desalination plant 
  • Additional tailings storage facilities, with segregated storage of process streams to enable potential future reprocessing

The initial expansion to 12,000 tonnes per annum NdPr equivalent has been fully scoped and the approximately $500 million investment is fully funded from cash flow. 

Lynas CEO and Managing Director, Amanda Lacaze, said the project will assist Australia’s transition towards new energy technologies such as wind energy and electric vehicles. 

“The rare earths market is growing at pace as the world transitions to new energy technologies such as wind energy and electric vehicles. Lynas has a decade-long track record in responsible rare earths production and the $500 million Mt Weld expansion project we are announcing today is designed to ensure we continue to grow with the market as a supplier of choice,” Ms Lacaze said. 

“This investment is supported by our high grade, long life and reliable source of feedstock, the remarkable Mt Weld ore body. Having a long life resource is an essential foundation for success in the rare earths market and the recent 1km deep drilling has demonstrated Mt Weld’s potential to supply feedstock for many years into the future. The Mt Weld capacity expansion project aims to unlock its true value in the most efficient and sustainable way to 2025 and beyond.”

In addition to this initial expansion project, Lynas plans to implement further sustainability and circular economy activities on the Mt Weld site, including: 

  • A staged transition from diesel fuelled power generation to gas and then hybrid renewable power generation 
  • A larger mine and waste rock landforms designed to be progressively rehabilitated 
  • Surface water management to capture seasonal rain events and divert into managed aquifer/groundwater recharge that also forms flood protection infrastructure for climate change resilience

Procurement of long lead equipment items has commenced and the Mt Weld expansion project is expected to create up to 300 jobs during the construction phase, and over 100 ongoing operational jobs in the Goldfields region of Western Australia. The project also supports the Federal Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy and the Western Australian Government’s Battery and Critical Minerals Strategy.  

Comprehensive environmental flora and fauna and cultural heritage surveys have already been completed on the Mt Weld site and will support the environmental approval process. 

Subject to relevant regulatory and stakeholder approvals, construction activities are expected to commence in early 2023, with full operation planned for 2024. Some infrastructure will be brought online in stages to accelerate production growth prior to the completion date.

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