The Federal Government has pitched in to assist a rare earth-focused company deliver jobs to local Indigenous communities in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.

Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU), in partnership with Aboriginal development organisation Wunan Foundation, is developing a $8.1 million Aboriginal training-to-work program at its Browns Range Heavy Rare Earth Pilot Plant project in East Kimberley, Western Australia.

Location of Northern Minerals’ projects I Western Australia and Northern Territory. 

The program has recently received $4.8 million in funding from the Federal Government under its Building Better Regions Fund to help build infrastructure such as classrooms at Browns Range.

For Northern Minerals, the program will assist in the company achieving its long-term target of 20 per cent Indigenous employment. The program will combine on-site classroom training with process line experience, supported by a curriculum designed for an Aboriginal audience.

The $329 million Browns Range project has the potential to deliver up to 400 construction and 300 operation jobs over its 11-year lifespan.

“Having worked in the region for nearly a decade, we recognise and understand the impact that this project will have in East Kimberley communities and as such we need to do everything possible to ensure that it is a success,” Northern Minerals boss George Bauk said.

Wunan Foundation’s chairman Ian Trust said the program had been developed based on its workings over the past 20 years, integrating a learning program that delivered positive outcomes for local indigenous workers.

Construction work on classroom and other infrastructure for the program will begin shortly.

Northern Minerals is aiming to be the first significant world producer of dysprosium outside of China. Dysprosium is used in the production of magnets used in clean energy and other high-tech uses.

The 3-year R&D pilot plant will begin first production of heavy rare earth carbonate in first half 2018.

Shares in Northern Minerals remained relatively unchanged on the news at about 13c. The company has a market capitalisation of roughly $92 million.