A proposal to mine rare earths at a site north of Alice Springs has been given environmental approval with stringent conditions.
The Northern Territory Environment Protection Authority says Arafura Resources’ Nolans Project can be managed to avoid unacceptable impacts and risks over the mine’s 55-year life.
Arafura plans to mine rare earth elements, including neodymium, praseodymium, apatite, monazite and allanite, which are used in products such as wind turbines and the electric motors in hybrid vehicles.
In its 16 recommendation to the NT government, the EPA said mining waste, including naturally occurring radioactive material, should be permanently stored on the mine site.
The EPA has also expressed concern over the potential impact on groundwater and has offered proposals to deal with the eventual closure and decommissioning of the mine.
‘This proposal comes with long-term environmental risks that will require a high level of ongoing regulatory scrutiny across,’ EPA chairman Paul Vogel said in a statement on Friday.
The EPA said the mine’s operators should integrate mine closure planning with its operations to allow for progressive rehabilitation of the site.
It says a bond should also be paid to ensure the rehabilitation’ costs were not left to the NT government should the mine be abandoned or the company become insolvent.
Within its recommendations and conditions, the EPA said the risks and impacts associated with the project could be avoided or sufficiently mitigated.
Arafura has already conducted pilot operations and expects to complete a final feasibility study in 2018.
Managing director Gavin Lockyer said the completion of the EPA assessment should go some way to securing final government approval, allowing construction to move forward.
‘Arafura is also acutely aware of the importance of community acceptance, our social licence to operate,’ Mr Lockyer said.
‘So we will maintain a strong focus on communication and consultation on all aspects of the project.’