Government of Western Australia Official Site


Heavy rare earths pilot processing plant opened

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan officially opened Northern Minerals’ Browns Range Heavy Rare Earths pilot processing plant on July 27, marking the start of a new era for tech metals in WA. Located 165km south east of Halls Creek, the pilot plant will process 180,000 tonnes of heavy rare earths ore over the next three years.

Western Australia’s North West is home to some of the biggest deposits of high-grade dysprosium and terbium in the world – heavy rare earth elements that are critical components of emerging technologies, including those used in electric vehicles, wind turbines and industrial robots. Browns Range will be the first heavy rare earths producer located outside of China

The project has already created an additional 62 jobs in the Kimberley through construction, with another 33 positions to be created over the next three years through operation. The pilot plant project will allow Northern Minerals to learn more about the geology and processing characteristics of the ore, as well as producing mixed rare earth carbonates for off-take sales.  

The pilot plant can produce 15 per cent of the final full-scale production of the project and is expected to generate $20 million per annum in rare earth sales. Northern Minerals will be able to use its product to demonstrate Australian heavy rare earths to users throughout the world. This will enable the company to measure demand and more effectively assess the economic and technical feasibility of the planned larger full-scale development. The full-scale plant is planned to commence operations in 2020-21.

Northern Minerals is also exploring options for further downstream processing which will allow products to be sold to a greater range of markets globally. 

Regional Development Minister Alannah MacTiernan commented:“Tech metals are the minerals of the 21st century, and WA has some of the biggest deposits in the world. The Browns Range pilot processing plant is a major milestone for this industry and will be a major job creator for the Kimberley region and Western Australia.”