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Expansion for Australia’s largest rare earths mine

Mt Weld

The Mt Weld rare earths operation in Western Australia has received environmental approval to grow in size and mine life.

WA’s Environmental Protection Authority (EPA) has recommended Lynas Rare Earths’ proposal to increase the size of Mt Weld to 2802 hectares and extend the 16-year-old operation’s life by up to 30 years.

Expanding the project would see Lynas build multiple new buildings on the site, including a hybrid power station, accommodation for workers and additional tailings water recycling infrastructure.

EPA chair Matthew Tonts said an upfront assessment of the impacts associated with the foreseeable life of a proposal produced a much better outcome for the environment.

“Adopting this approach meant the EPA was able to undertake the assessment with full knowledge of the existing and proposed Mt Weld operations,” Tonts said.

“This is one of the first projects to provide the EPA with life-of-mine insight that allows confident assessment of the combined and cumulative impacts.”

According to the EPA, Lynas has continuously undertaken research and design work on the tailings storage at the site since Mt Weld began operations in 2007.

This has led to a 70 per cent improvement in water recovery and a 50 per cent reduction in the volume of tailings and mine waste.

The EPA’s report to the Western Australian Minister for Environment is now open for a three-week public appeal period, closing November 30.

EPA approval for Mt Weld’s expansion comes as Lynas advances commissioning of its Kalgoorlie processing plant, with key personnel from the company’s Malaysia plant being redeployed to apply the finishing touches on the new facility.

Lynas was recently issued a variation to its Malaysia operating licence, allowing the continued importation and processing of lanthanide concentrate into Lynas’ Malaysia facility.

A ban on the cracking and leaching component of the Malaysia plant was set to come into place on January 1, 2024.

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