Arafura Resources will, in the next few years, become a long-term, secure supplier of neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr) oxide from its 100%-owned Nolans project. The project site is located 135 kilometres north along the Stuart Highway from the town of Alice Springs in the Northern Territory of Australia.

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Arafura’s mineral tenure over the Nolans project site is secured by three granted exploration licences (ELs) - EL28473, EL28498 and EL29509. Arafura has also applied for four mineral leases (MLs) within these ELs which, when granted, will host the mining and mineral processing operations, and many of the associated infrastructure elements of the Nolans project.

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Resources and Reserves

The project’s cornerstone asset is the Nolans Bore rare earths-phosphate-uranium-thorium (REE-P-U-Th) deposit, one of the largest and most intensively explored deposits of its kind in the world. The deposit contains a JORC 2012-compliant Mineral Resources of 56 million tonnes at an average grade of 2.6% total rare earth oxides (TREO) and 11% phosphate (P2O5) that extends to 215 metres below the surface. Two-thirds of the contained rare earths are in high confidence Measured and Indicated resources.

MINERAL RESOURCES FOR THE NOLANS BORE DEPOSIT AS AT 7 JUNE 2017 USING A 1% TREO CUT-OFF GRADE

RESOURCES TONNES million RARE EARTHS TREO % PHOSPHATE P2O5 % NdPr enrichment %
Measured 4.9 3.2 13 26.1
Indicated 30 2.7 12 26.4
Inferred 21 2.3 10 26.5
TOTAL 56 2.6 11 26.4

Numbers may not compute due to rounding. “NdPr enrichment” is the proportion of TREO comprising Nd2O3 and Pr6O11.

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The most abundant rare earth-bearing minerals at Nolans Bore are apatitemonazite (both phosphate minerals) and allanite (a silicate mineral). These mineral species present a highly desirable rare earth mix at Nolans Bore, with 26.4% of the mix represented by NdPr.

As part of its Definitive Feasibility Study, JORC 2012-compliant Ore Reserves have been estimated for the project.

ORE RESERVES FOR THE NOLANS PROJECT AS AT 7 FEBRUARY 2019

RESERVES TONNES million RARE EARTHS TREO % PHOSPHATE P2O5 % NdPr enrichment %
Proved 4.3 3.1 13 26.1
Probable 14.9 2.9 13 26.5
TOTAL 19.2 3.0 13 26.4

Numbers may not compute due to rounding. “NdPr enrichment” is the proportion of TREO comprising Nd2O3 and Pr6O11.

Mining and Processing

The Ore Reserves have the potential to support mining and processing operations for 23 years at a design capacity of 300,000 tonnes of concentrate production per annum.

Open-cut mining will selectively target phosphate-rich material types in seven pit stages over the life of mine. Arafura is planning to mine an average of 7.6 million tonnes or ore and waste rock each year to produce 897,000 tonnes of ore as feed to a single-stage crushing and milling circuit at the process plant approximately 8.5 kilometres south of the mine.

Milled ore will initially be processed using flotation. This reduces the mass for subsequent processing and produces a phosphate-rich, rare earth-bearing concentrate, as well as tailings. Tailings will be pumped to a Residue Storage Facility (RSF) for containment and long-term management.

The concentrate will be fed to an adjacent extraction plant, where it will be subjected to a number of hydrometallurgical processes including pre-leach, sulphation, water leach, precipitation, dissolution, and purification. The extraction plant will produce a cerium (Ce) hydroxide product (8,380 tonnes per annum) and 135,800 tonnes of merchant grade (MGA) phosphoric acid each year as a by-product of the pre-leach process. These products are earmarked for export and direct sale. Waste streams, including gypsum, from extraction processing will be neutralised before being pumped to an RSF.

Rare earth chloride from the extraction plant will be further refined at an adjacent separation plant into two final rare earth products for export and sale: 4,360 tonnes per annum of NdPr oxide and 600 tonnes per annum of a mixed middle-heavy rare earth (SEG/HRE) carbonate.

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Project Development 

Arafura’s focus during 2019 is to procure the funds necessary to construct and operate the Nolans project in order to take full advantage of an anticipated early-2020s supply shortfall in NdPr oxide.

Important precursors to a final investment decision (FID) are to secure the remaining government approvals for the project (mining and groundwater extraction) and finalise commercially-binding sales agreements for a large proportion of the project’s NdPr oxide and MGA product offerings. These key activities represent the Company’s immediate priorities.

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