The Australian Government has approved Arafura Resources’ mining project in the Northern Territory, taking it a step closer to final approval.
Federal environmental approval follows approval from the NT Environmental Protection Authority (NT EPA) in 2017 after a rigorous environmental impact assessment which concluded the project could be managed to avoid unacceptable environmental impacts and risks.
Northern Territory Minister for Primary Industries and Resources, Ken Vowles, said the next major approval required for the project to move forward is from the Department of Primary Industry and Resources.
“Arafura Resources will finalise its Mine Management Plan and my department will make sure it ticks all the boxes,” Mr Vowles said.
The Nolans Project proposes to mine rare earth elements, key components in many green and sustainable products, such as wind turbines for the clean energy industry and hybrid vehicles, and includes open cut mining and processing over a 55-year mine life.
Mining wastes that include naturally occurring radioactive materials would be permanently stored onsite. The proposal also includes groundwater abstraction from a new borefield and permanent diversion of an ephemeral creek.
The proposed site is 135km north-northwest of Alice Springs and ten kilometres west of Aileron roadhouse and Alyuen community.
“Arafura Resources want to mine and process rare earths, particularly neodymium and praseodymium, at its Nolans Project 135km north-northwest of Alice Springs,” Mr Vowles said.
“Rare earths are in short supply globally, so demand is high and growing. This is a real opportunity to create jobs in Central Australia through the construction, mining and processing phases, and also through the export chain.”
Rare earths are a critical raw material in the manufacture of magnets used in the automotive industry and the delivery of clean energy.
Arafura Resources General Manager NT and Sustainability, Brian Fowler, said it was an important milestone.
“This marks the end of our formal environmental approvals,” Mr Fowler said.
“We can now engage with potential partners and look at making a final investment decision later this year or early next year.”