Australian mining firm Alkane Resources has received environmental approval from the Department of Planning and Environment (DP&E) for its $1bn Dubbo Zirconia project (DZP) in New South Wales.
DP&E said in a statement: "At this stage, the department is satisfied that the benefits of the project would outweigh its impacts, and that it should be approved subject strict conditions."
Located in the central-west region of New South Wales, the DZP has estimated ore reserve of 35.93 million tonnes (Mt) at 1.93% zirconium, 0.04% hafnium, 0.46% niobium, 0.03% tantalum, 0.14% yttrium and 0.74% rare earth oxides. The resource is stated as 73.2Mt at 1.96% zirconium, 0.04%, hafnium, 0.46% niobium, 0.03% tantalum, 0.14% yttrium and 0.75% rare earth oxides.
The mine is expected generate revenues of A$450m ($420.4m) to A$500m ($467.1m) in the first year of production. The project is targeted to begin in 2016 and will have a mine life of 70 years.
Production from the DZP is anticipated to meet the global demand of 2% light rare-earth element and 8% of heavy rare-earth element.
In addition, it is claimed to meet 8% of the world's demand for zirconium products and 3% of niobium.
Alkane Resources CEO Ian Chalmers was quoted by Australian Mining as saying: "These are very advanced metals that have advanced applications. DZP will have that flow-on affect in royalties, taxation and wages back to the state of NSW.
"It will also put Australia on the map in terms of exporting these metals."
The project has now been sent to the Planning Assessment Commission (PAC) for review, which is expected to be completed before the end of this year.
DP&E said: "Following the PAC review, the department will finalise its assessment of the project taking into consideration the findings of the PAC review.
"It will then refer the development application for the project to the PAC for determination."
Upon receipt of the final approval, the project is expected to create 450 jobs in the region.