Australian regulator recommends approval for rare earth elements project

8 January 2018 (Last Updated January 8th, 2018 16:59)

The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) has recommended approval for Arafura Resources’ Nolans project in Australia after completing an environmental impact assessment.

The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority (NT EPA) has recommended approval for Arafura Resources’ Nolans project in Australia after completing an environmental impact assessment.

The recommendation is based on certain operational controls the company is required to put in place to mitigate environmental impacts and risks.

Arafura aims to mine rare earth elements from the project, which includes open-cut mining and processing over a mine-life of 55 years.

The regulatory body has now submitted environmental impact assessment report and recommendations to the government.

It is expected that mining wastes comprising radioactive materials would be permanently stored onsite.

NT EPA chairman Dr Paul Vogel said: “This proposal comes with long-term environmental risks that will require a high level of ongoing regulatory scrutiny across government.”

“This should go some way to securing final government approval for the project.”

A total of 16 recommendations have been put forward by the NT EPA focusing on ensuring efficient management of tailings, residue, and waste during operation, closure, and post-decommissioning.

The body called for an independent technical review and operational oversight to contain the risks associated with potential contaminants and ensure the presence of naturally occurring radioactive materials in the waste streams is kept to a minimum level.

In addition, the NT EPA has recommended further hydrological investigations such as refining the groundwater model, setting site-specific groundwater level triggers and adaptive management of groundwater use.

Arafura Resources managing director Gavin Lockyer said: “This should go some way to securing final government approval for the project, enabling construction to move forward, subject to financing and a final investment decision (FID).”

The company expects to secure environmental approval from the government during the current quarter.