KBR teams up with Arafura Resources to deliver world class rare earths project in Australia

KBR, Inc., Houston, Texas, United States, was appointed as the Project Management Consultant by Arafura Resources Limited, Perth, Australia, for the Nolans Project in late 2019, through which KBR works in collaboration with its sub-consultant Wave International Engineering as an Integrated Project Management Team (IPMT). The IPMT will project manage the Process Plant and Non-Process Infrastructure for the ~A$1b Nolans Project to source critical rare earths minerals in Australia’s Northern Territory.

Located 135km north of Alice Springs, the Nolans Project is one of the largest rare earths projects in the world, most of which is enriched with ‘magnet feed’ rare earths, known as neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr).

Rare earths are a critical resource and essential part of today’s lifestyle due to our dependence on technology and pursuit of clean energy solutions. They are key elements used in the automotive consumer electronics, high speed magnet trains, wind energy, aerospace and healthcare sectors, and in oil refining, robotics and military applications. Sourced predominately in China, the Nolans Project is a critical step toward in diversifying the production of rare earths minerals and building stronger and more reliable supply chains within the international arena.

The project is in a positive position to advance onto the next stages, with Arafura Resources recently announcing the project has received support from Export Finance Agency (EFA) with a conditional debt facility of up to A$200 million; in addition to support from Northern Australia Infrastructure Facility (NAIF) with a conditional debt facility of $100 million.

Arafura is also in the process of raising approximately A$40m through a capital raising process, strengthening their cash position, and allowing the team to progress into Front End Engineering and Design (FEED) for the processing plant. During the estimated 12-month FEED phase commencing in Quarter 3 2021, concurrent works will occur on Non-Process Infrastructure (NPI) areas of the project.

The Nolans Project will create considerable employment, training and business opportunities for the Northern Territory community and First Nations peoples, through procuring local businesses and generating between 280 and 605 jobs during construction and operation, supporting a more skilled workforce.

When the plant is in operation, Arafura hopes it will be able to supply between five and ten per cent of the world’s magnet rare earths supply and, throughout its 38-year mine life, produce more than 4,400 tonnes of NdPr Oxide product each year. The project is on track to begin production by the end of 2024.

“We are excited to continue supporting Arafura to advance the Nolans Project and contribute to the growth of Australian critical minerals supply chains,” said Carey Gent, Director, Program Management and Construction Services. “We are proud to partner with our customers to help them deliver their most complex projects and programs using our proven Program and Project Management Solutions to achieve their strategic business objectives.”

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