New mines in The Centre – a snapshot


Five mines in The Centre are in varying stages of development, Bill Sankey, from the NT Department of Business, told the Rotary Club of Alice Springs this week.
None have reached Final Investment Decision, he said, but if even just two make it into production, and that is likely, the economic advantages for Alice Springs would be significant, ranging from a big boost in employment to lower airfares for FiFo operations.
Better still, Mr Sankey agreed with a guest, would be workers and their families living in town.
If all projects came to pass, 1755 people would be employed during the construction phases, and 1155 during operations.
The five companies would be splashing $2.6bn in capital and $584m a year on operational expenditure.
In he context of the habitually controversial mining, the projects are mostly benign: None are digging for coal, the controversial fracking is not involved (most of that will take place in the Beetaloo Basin further north) and the rare earth to be mined at Aileron, just some 100 km north of town, will be used for building electric cars.
The only doubts raised last night were about concerns by the Titjikala population over the planned Tellus salt mine, which will double as hazardous waste storage; the adequacy of requirements for rehabilitation of mine sites, and the capacity of smaller companies to ensure the safety of their employees.
Estimated figures for employment in the proposed five mines are (FTE means full time equivalent; FID means Final Investment Decision):-
Arafura Resources – Nolan’s Rare Earth Project: Is located on Aileron Station some 135km North of Alice Springs. The mine is an open-cut and the rare-earths are associated with apatite a phosphate bearing ore. The current total resource for the project is some 56 million tonnes containing 2.6% total rare earth oxides and 11% phosphate.
The facility will produce phosphoric acid (an input to fertiliser production) and the following rare earth products – a neodymium/praseodymium oxide (high strength magnets), cerium hydroxide and a Heavy Rare Earth Carbonate.
Benefits to the community include jobs, and local business opportunities as the project based on current reserves (a sub-set of the resource figure above) will operate for 23 years.
PHOTO: Drilling at Molyhil near Jervois.
Construction employment associated with the project is in the order of 375 FTE, 500 at peak with Operational employment at mine site of 370.
The project completed an environment assessment in 2017, however the decision in 2018 to site the separation facility in the Territory will require a determination by the NT EPA as to whether further assessment will be required.
Arafura are also progressing a variety of matters to support the project including land access, ground water extraction license, project finance including product off-take. A final investment decision (FID) is anticipated in mid-2020 with project Commissioning 2022. Tier 1 engineering, procurement, construction tender let.
• KGL – Jervois Base Metal Project: Is about 270 km east north east of Alice Springs off the Plenty Highway. Mining will be a mix of open-cut and underground, with processing consisting of froth flotation to produce a copper, gold and silver concentrate and a lead-zinc concentrate. Total concentrate production in the order of 150,000 tonnes per annum.
The project had a global resource of about 25.2 million tonnes, (384,000 tonnes of copper ore, 23.6 million ounces silver and gold, lead, zinc) and is working to produce a revised ore reserve, as recent drilling has at key deposits increased the copper reserves.
Operations will occur over a period of 12-15 years. Construction employment: 360 FTE. Operation employment: 300 FTE. This project has its mineral leases in place and is at this stage working to secure project finance and finalising its environmental assessment.
• Tellus – The Chandler Project is about 120km south of Alice Springs and consists of a salt mine and deep geological repository.
It will produce approximately 750,000 tonnes per year of salt for 25 years and receive for permanent storage using best practice of up to 400,000 tonnes per year of hazardous waste, as well as providing opportunities for equipment and archive storage.
Construction for this project will occur over a period of five years. Construction employment: 720 FTE peak. Operation employment: 150 FTE.
The project completed an environmental assessment in November 2017. It is progressing a number of matters including land tenure, Maryvale Road upgrade, working with regulators on approvals and policy questions.
• TNG – Mount Peake: The Mount Peake Mine is about 280km north of Alice Springs. The mine will be open cut and produce a magnetite concentrate that is to be transported to a process facility located at Middle Arm in Darwin.
The mine has completed its Environmental Assessment, secured its mining tenure and working towards it authorisation under the Mining Management Act.
It will have a Construction employment: 225 FTE. Operation employment: 125 FTE to year five, then 170 FTE. 160 million tonnes (ore) per year of titanium, vanadium and iron. Mine life extended to 37 years. FID mid 2020.
• Verdant Resources: The Ammaroo phosphate project is a proposed open cut mine some 180km southeast of Tennant Creek.
Based upon the environmental assessment completed in October 2018 it will have construction employment of 300 FTE, to be varied with scope with Operational employment of 165 FTE from year six when it will reach peak production of about two million tonnes per year of rock phosphate.
Verdant has recently delisted from Australian Stock Exchange following stock buyout. They will need to formally advise of change in scope and revised project schedule.
Mr Sankey says all five projects have “Major Project Status” which the government awards on the basis of a project’s significance, strategic impact, complexity, feasibility, a proponent’s capacity to deliver, whether there is need for government support, as well as local industry participation, workforce development and social impact.


  1. In the late 60s a BHP geologist examined several magnetic lines of lineament across the continent. Many of the existing mineral deposits were found to be on these lines and they all intersected in the Jervois area. The land was subsequently taken up by Mithril Resources, an offshoot of BHP and the potential there is massive.
    Verdant resources is a sad case as it has massive resources of phosphate.
    One school of thought is that Australia will run out of phosphate within 20 years, then it will probably have to come from North Africa, with all the potential instability to supply for political reasons, and consequences for our farmers.
    Yet in spite of this the powers that be allowed the sale of the company to overseas interests –fortunately British, headed by an Australian, and not the usual Chinese.
    They did not purchase the venture for feel good reasons but they were looking 20 years down the road as we should have been doing.
    That was a strategic Australian asset lost again, the reason being that we could not raise enough money in this country to develop it in the national interest.
    However we can still muster the money to build houses far in excess of our needs and imports to satisfy our need to be bigger than the man down the street, but cannot muster the dollars to keep control of a strategic asset essential to the welfare of the nation.
    Much the same almost happened with rare earths in Northern Minerals which produces dysprosium, an essential ingredient in the new generation of jet engines.
    Chinese private interests were chasing it. As a shareholder in Verdant (and Northern Minerals) I protested but to no avail and the few dollars involved short term were heard more clearly than the voice of a small shareholder, and the welfare long term of the nation.
    I am also a shareholder and supporter of both TNG and Arafura.


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