Browns Range given environmental thumbs-up

THE BOURSE WHISPERER: Northern Minerals (ASX: NTU) has been granted environmental approval by the Western Australian Government for the proposed mine and ore processing facility at the company’s 100 per cent-owned Browns Range heavy rare earths project.

The company said the granting of environmental approval paves the way for the development of the project, which it considers to be ready to become the world’s next dysprosium producer.

“Receiving the primary environmental approval is a significant step forward in the project’s development and clears the path for Browns Range to become the first significant dysprosium producer outside of China,” Northern Minerals managing director George Bauk said in the company’s announcement to the Australian Securities Exchange.

“The focus is now on finalising the project’s Feasibility Study and securing offtake and financing to progress the project through construction in 2015 and commissioning in 2016.”

The company explained the Ministerial Statement facilitates the assessment and subsequent approval of the project’s secondary licences, which Northern Minerals has been working on concurrently during the primary environmental assessment process.

These approvals will now be considered by the relevant decision making authorities, and include:

Mining Proposal and Project Management Plan from the WA Department of Mines and Petroleum;

Works Approval and Licences from the WA Department of Environment Regulation; and

Licences to construct bores and take water from the WA Department of Water.

The company added that the Federal Government Department of Environment has assessed Browns Range to be a ‘Not Controlled Action’, which means the project does not require assessment and approval under the EPBC Act 1999.

The Browns Range project was referred to the WA Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) in May 2013.

In August 2014, the EPA recommended approval of the project to the WA Minister for Environment, stating it considers the project can be managed to meet the EPA’s environmental objectives subject to its recommended conditions being adopted.

During this process, no appeals were lodged against the EPA’s report, recommendations and conditions following a statutory appeal period.

“The Ministerial Statement is the culmination of two and a half years of comprehensive environmental and technical studies, extensive community and stakeholder engagement, and thorough assessment by government agencies,” Bauk said.

“We are very pleased with the way the process has been undertaken and the outcomes achieved.”