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An unheralded rare earths jurisdiction

Victoria rare earths

Victoria is emerging as a bonafide critical minerals jurisdiction, with several projects set to produce rare earths and mineral sands.

This includes Astron Corporation’s Donald project in west Victoria.

Astron this week received an $183 million funding boost from US uranium miner Energy Fuels Inc, involving farm-in, joint venture, and offtake agreements.

The binding arrangement will see Energy Fuels become a 49 per cent owner of the Donald project in the future.

Energy Fuels will immediately assume responsibility for funding 100 per cent of the Donald project expenditure in the form of an interest free loan.

Construction of the project is expected to start in 2025, with rare earths concentrate to be shipped to Energy Fuels’ White Mesa Mill processing facility in Utah by 2026.

Astron managing director Tiger Brown said the joint venture with Energy Fuels will establish a Western rare earth value chain aligned with the Australian Government’s Critical Minerals Strategy.

“The execution of this agreement represents a transformational moment in our company’s history,” Brown said.

“In Energy Fuels, we have found a joint venture partner that shares our values, our goals and focus, one that strongly complements our mineral sands experience and aspirations with their own rare earth experience and strategy.”

Energy Fuels president and chief executive officer Mark Chalmers shared Brown’s sentiment, highlighting Donald as a ‘world class’ project.

“I’ll add that our joint venture plans with Astron and the timing of the Donald project development could not be better and fits very nicely with the sequencing of our US Critical Mineral Hub initiative, which includes advancing our rare earth element and heavy mineral sand production,” Chalmers said.

“We believe the Donald project will be a ‘flagship’ mining project for Australia and the State of Victoria and the USA, producing many of the rare earth element raw materials needed for the energy transition perfectly aligned with the critical mineral objectives of both countries.”

VHM’s Goschen project – which is targeting first production in 2025 – is another advanced rare earths and mineral sands project in Victoria.

The scalability of the Goschen project is underpinned by a significant mineral resource inventory of 629Mt comprising measured, indicated, and inferred resources with further resource expansion potential.

Having recently completed the bilateral government public hearing process for the project’s environmental permitting assessment, Goschen is primed to take the next steps towards production.

VHM also recently entered into a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with Yellow Iron Fleet for mining services at Goschen.

The two parties are expected to enter into a mining partnership agreement during the six-month MoU period.

A mining partnership agreement would extend for a period equal to the life of mine of the company’s Area 1 – set to be in excess of seven years, unless terminated by the parties prior.

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