Arafura bides time at Nolans

WHILE COVID-19 restrictions are having limited impact on activities related to Arafura Resources’ Nolans neodymium-praseodymium project in the Northern Territory, the company is reassessing all work to try and balance project progress with cash conservation.
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Nolans rare earths deposit

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All 22 workers in Arafura's Perth office are confined to quarters at home, however, its three Darwin-based workers are still operating from the office.

Precautionary measures introduced by the NT government to protect remote Indigenous communities from the COVID-19 pandemic have also affected the granting of Nolans mining tenure. The planned April Central Land Council meeting that was expected to grant the necessary endorsement and execution of both the Indigenous land use agreement and section 31 agreement has been postponed until travel restrictions are lifted.

Arafura managing director Gavin Lockyer said the COVID-19 pandemic was a stark reminder of the fragility of supply chains, particularly those relating to critical minerals such as rare earths and was a prime motivator for direct investment by governments and downstream customers in the sector.

Lockyer said after the China-wide shutdown in late-January due to the onset of COVID-19, Chinese industry restarted in March, and most manufacturing facilities were running at 50-80% capacity.

He said much of the rare earth industry and downstream neodymium magnet makers in northern China were also back in operation and busy filling backlogs of offshore and domestic orders, with increased demand to deliver stretching operational and logistics capability.

Chinese car makers are also back in business, Lockyer said, with production resuming at 22 of the 24 Volkswagen factories in China in the past month.

Arafura was forced to cancel planned marketing visits to Japan, South Korea and China due to the COVID-19 related international travel restrictions.

Lockyer said it did, however, manage to make a flying visit to Europe in early March, and offtake discussions with potential buyers were continuing.