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Northern Minerals has produced the very first export quality rare earth product from its Browns Range project in the East Kimberley region of Western Australia.

The company is the only ASX-listed heavy rare earths producer outside of China.

There are heavy rare earths and light rare earths. Heavy rare earths have a higher atomic weight than light rare earths.

Following the start of commissioning of the 60,000-tonne-per-annum Browns Range project in June, Northern Minerals has now produced the first final product of rare earth carbonate from its pilot plant.

The news moved shares up 3 per cent to 7.8c on Monday morning.

Northern Minerals was initially expecting to make its first shipment before the end of the September quarter.

Managing director George Bauk told Stockhead the rare earth carbonate is headed for China, but could not say how much the product would fetch or when the product would be shipped.

“We are now reforecasting our production based on our first production and that will drive the first shipment,” he said.

“This product will be making its way to China for qualification, a standard process in industrial minerals. We are currently calculating the price at the moment, as the price will be based on the two months average prior to shipment.”

Browns Range produces primarily dysprosium and terbium.

Both commodities are considered critical metals because of supply constraints and their importance in the development of clean energy technologies.

Dysprosium is an additive used in the permanent magnets required for the motors in electric vehicles.

Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) shares over the past year.
Northern Minerals (ASX:NTU) shares over the past year.

The heavy rare earth reduces the weight requirement and allows operation at very high temperatures.

Each electric vehicle contains roughly 100 grams of dysprosium.

Dysprosium has been labelled the “dark horse in the rare earth stakes” as the rapid growth in the electric vehicle market spurs higher projections for demand of the magnet metal.

Dysprosium and terbium are also used in wind turbines, industrial robots, air conditioning and many other new technologies that are in development.

The first bag of rare earth carbonate from Northern Minerals' Browns Range project.
The first bag of rare earth carbonate from Northern Minerals’ Browns Range project.

“This is the first production of rare earth carbonate from xenotime ore outside China and represents a new global source of product,” Mr Bauk told investors this morning.

Xenotime, a phosphate ore, is one of the valuable mineral deposits of rare earths.

“Commissioning is progressing well, and we look forward to the next milestone being the first shipment of product to our customers,” Mr Bauk said.

Mr Bauk says Northern Minerals hopes to reach steady-state production by the start of the second quarter next year.

“The beneficiation plant is tracking very well and the hydrometallurgical plant has just been tested to the end, being production of carbonate, so continuous production at the required run rate is the focus now,” he said.