Australian heavy rare earths producer, Northern Minerals Limited (ASX: NTU) has made the difficult decision to temporarily suspend site operations at the Browns Range Pilot Plant Project, effective immediately.
Temporary suspension of site operations at Browns Range due to COVID-19 pandemic
Focus on the health and safety of our people
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The decision is a result of recent and anticipated impacts of the COVID-19 virus and the broad range of necessary measures being undertaken by the Australian Federal and WA governments.
We anticipate progressive travel restrictions within regional WA will be required to halt the spread of COVID-19. The global, national and state outlook indicates that there will be growing difficulty in moving people to and from the Browns Range site in the East Kimberley region of WA.
Health and safety of our people
The health and safety of our people is our number one priority, and our commitment to play our part in protecting the Kimberley stands alongside that. Given the extreme remoteness of the Browns Range site, we have taken the difficult but necessary decision to temporarily suspend the site operations and move to care and maintenance immediately.
The recent directives by the WA government to protect the vulnerable residents of Aboriginal communities, many of which are located within the Kimberley region, is an additional factor in this decision.
We have a close relationship with the residents of Broome, Halls Creek and Ringer Soak and our continued operation and movement of goods and personnel through these communities poses too high a risk.
Prior to this decision being made, we recently transported a further 27 tonnes of heavy rare earth carbonate to Darwin for export and sale, with all material produced since commencement now sold or ready to be sold. The recent consignment crossed the WA/NT border before it closed on Tuesday. A demobilisation plan has been enacted and a small care and maintenance team will remain on site on an alternating 4 week on 4 week off roster.
Northern Minerals Managing Director and CEO, George Bauk, said, “We understand this decision will have a significant impact on all our employees.
“These are difficult, uncertain and unprecedented times. These decisions are not made lightly and are taken to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the community within which we operate.
“While this decision will obviously have a significant impact in the near term, we are hopeful that our resilience and adaptability will ensure our longevity and that Northern Minerals will be ready to rebound when the global situation improves.”
The Company will continue to monitor the situation as it evolves and work with authorities to resume operations when it is considered safe to do so. While site-based activities have been suspended, there are several value-enhancing projects that will continue.