Alkane Resources' wholly owned subsidiary Australian Zirconia (AZL) has secured approval from the New South Wales Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) for the development of its A$1bn ($770m) Dubbo Zirconia Project (DZP) in Australia.
Following the approval, AZL will proceed with applications for the environmental protection licence (EPL), mining lease and to secure project financing to advance the rare earths and exotic metals project into a development phase.
Alkane Resources managing director Ian Chalmers said: "We recognise there are a number of important steps before construction begins but we are delighted to achieve development consent for the Dubbo Zirconia Project, and are looking forward to taking the next steps towards establishing this globally significant operation.
"This project will not only mean a transformation for Alkane, but it will have a significant impact on the region, creating some 300 jobs and strategically important resources exports for Australia."
Alkane said that international engineering company Hatch has completed front-end engineering and design (FEED) pre-construction work on primary design.
The company has focused on optimising the flow sheet to cut the quantity of water required over the last one year in a bid to improve the yield of the DZP products.
As part of this, the company developed a new zirconium basic carbonate (ZBC) process, which will provide the project with a zirconium product process and diverse offtake options.
Recently, Treibacher Industrie (TIAG) provided AZL with detailed engineering and costing for the ferro-niobium (FeNb) plant, which would be integrated into the DZP processing facility.
Construction is expected to begin in early 2016 on the project, which aims to produce zirconium, hafnium, niobium, yttrium and other light and heavy rare earth elements.
With production expected to begin in 2017, the project is expected to make Alkane a strategic producer of zirconium products and heavy rare earths.
Image: Alkane Resources' DZP development consent. Photo: courtesy of Alkane Resources Ltd.