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A demobilisation plan has been enacted and a small care and maintenance team will remain on site on an alternating four-week on four-week off roster.
Northern Minerals expects progressive travel restrictions within regional WA will be required to halt the spread of COVID-19 and that will make it even harder to move people to and from the East Kimberley region of WA.
WA government directives aimed at protecting vulnerable residents of Aboriginal communities, many of which are located within the Kimberley region, are an additional factor in this decision.
Northern Minerals recently transported a further 27t of heavy rare earth carbonate to Darwin for export and sale, with all material produced since commencement sold or ready to be sold. The recent consignment crossed the WA-Northern Territory border before it closed on March 24.
Northern Minerals managing director and CEO George Bauk said he understood the decision would have a significant impact on all the company's employees.
"These are difficult, uncertain and unprecedented times," he said.
"These decisions are not made lightly and are taken to ensure the health and safety of our employees and the community within which we operate.
"While this decision will obviously have a significant impact in the near term, we are hopeful that our resilience and adaptability will ensure our longevity and that Northern Minerals will be ready to rebound when the global situation improves."
While site-based activities have been suspended, several projects will continue.
An exploration team is working on a mineral resource update for the high-grade Dazzler deposit following the recent drilling program.
Australian government export credit agency Export Finance Australia has provided a letter of support to Northern Minerals advising it is willing to continue to explore the potential provision of finance required for the Browns Range processing plant.
Any EFA finance remains subject to further EFA due diligence and on reaching agreement on the proposed terms of any financing.
Northern Minerals will also continue to engage with the Critical Minerals Facilitation Office on development of the Browns Range plant and downstream capabilities and to identify offtake and investor opportunities.
On the pilot plant front, the testwork program for the pilot plant project will be analysed during the production hiatus and any further refinements to the processing flowsheet will be implemented as part of the plant's potential restart.
The separation program is being conducted by K-Tech in the US.
However, the results will likely be delayed as a result of COVID-19.
Northern Minerals is also continuing discussions with the Australian Tax Office following the receipt of the formal notification from AusIndustry on February 24 that it had reversed its initial finding in relation to the company's research and development claims.