Axe to fall on miners

Headshot of Elise Van Aken
Elise Van AkenThe Kimberley Echo
Northern Minerals' Browns Range heavy rare earths project in the East Kimberley.
Camera IconNorthern Minerals' Browns Range heavy rare earths project in the East Kimberley. Credit: Supplied

An East Kimberley mine will partially resume operations but is set to axe a quarter of its staff, with its chairman blaming COVID-19 restrictions for the cuts.

Northern Minerals Limited advised shareholders last week the board had decided to partially restart operations at the company’s Browns Range heavy rare earths pilot plant project as well as restart exploration activities across its tenements in the East Kimberley.

The decision followed the lifting of Commonwealth biosecurity restrictions applied to the region as part of COVID-19 control measures, which was the catalyst for the company placing the project on hold in March.

Northern Minerals Browns Range project site.
Camera IconNorthern Minerals Browns Range project site. Credit: Broome Advertiser/Jakeb Waddell

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The partial return of pilot plant operations at Browns Range will result in about three- quarters of its workforce being remobilised later this month, but some positions were likely to be made redundant.

Executive chairman Colin McCavana said while the board was pleased to be in a position to restart work at Browns Range following COVID-19 being brought under control in the State, the restrictions had come at a cost to the business.

“We have taken the difficult decision to only partially restart the pilot plant at this stage, but believe it is the best immediate path forward in the project’s development,” he said.

“We will work closely and collaboratively with those members of the team impacted by this decision to redeploy them to other opportunities within the company, including within our exploration team, where it is possible.”

Exploration activity across the Browns Range tenement package was set to be ramped up, with a budget of up to $5 million for greenfields exploration.

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