West Australian premier Colin Barnett has officially open Lynas Corporation’s Mt Weld rare earth mine.
Barnett congratulated Lynas on its commitment over the last decade in developing the $100 million project.
“As the first significant rare earth mine to be opened outside of China for many years, the Mt Weld project brings an important new capacity to Western Australia’s already diverse and globally important resources sector,” he said.
“It will give WA a stake in some of the 21st century’s most exciting technological developments, and strengthen our economic links with Malaysia.
As well as directly employing up to 90 people at its full capacity, the mine is expected to contribute at least $17million in annual royalty payments to the State.
The deposit, located about 35 km south of Laverton, is the reportedly the richest known deposit of rare earths in the world.
The mine is expected to be in production for around twenty year, producing an estimated 33 000 tonnes annually of rare earth concentrates.
The ore will be exported to Lynas’ advanced materials processing plant in Malaysia.
The miner has already signed long term supply agreements with Japanese buyers.
Lynas intends to produce 11,000 tonnes per annum from Phase 1 of the Mt Weld project, increasing to 22,000 tpa from Phase 2. Based on 2010 production, Lynas could be supplying about eight per cent of the world market when Phase 1 reaches full capacity in 2012 and about 14 per cent when Phase 2 commences in 2013.
The miner’s rare earth plant has come under increased scrutiny in Mayalsia, amidst fears of potential radioactive contamination from the site.
The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) carried out an investigation into the site to whether it was operating to safe standards.
The IAEA made 11 recommendations for waste management and eventual decommissioning of the rare earths refinery.
It stated that Lynas should be required to submit a comprehensive long term waste management plan for the refinery.
The miner was also required to provide the public with a greater understanding on radiation safety and the proposed works at the plant, the IAEA saying it "should intensify its communication with interested and affected parties in order to demonstrate how it ensure the radiological safety of the public and the environment".
Lynas will only be given full operating licences if it meets all 11 recommendations.
The processing plant recently made another move forward when it awarded the construction contract for its phase 2 expansion project to Toyo-Thai.
The award consists of engineering, procurement, construction and commissioning assistance for phase 2 of the expansion of the Lynas Advanced Materials Plant (LAMP).
Valued at between US$180 million and US$210 million, the expansion will increase the LAMP capacity to around 22 000 tonnes REO per annum.