DRA builds on long relationship with Lynas Rare Earths’ Mt Weld with Expansion Project work

With applications in electric vehicles, wind turbines, energy-efficient lighting, and other clean technologies, the growing global demand for rare earth elements is no surprise. More countries are turning to renewable energy, and the race to diversify the rare earths supply chain is becoming essential.

Lynas Rare Earths is the only significant producer of separated rare earths products outside China, providing an important alternative for manufacturers in technology markets including green technologies. DRA Global has been a key delivery partner in Lynas’ Mt Weld Rare Earths Project since 2008, providing bespoke engineering services, and recently summarised its work so far at the operation.

Lynas’ Mt Weld mine in Western Australia is one of the world’s premier rare earths deposits. Here Lynas mines and concentrates rare earth ore to produce a mixed rare earth concentrate for shipment to Lynas’ advanced materials plant in Malaysia.

DRA says its team members were involved in the original design and construction of the Mt Weld processing plant in 2009 and the subsequent upgrade in 2013. In 2023, DRA was appointed to deliver the resulting studies and detailed engineering design for the Mt Weld Expansion Project, currently in progress, working closely with the Lynas team.

Over the past 40 years, DRA has built a differentiated service offering around its strong EPCM and O&M capabilities. DRA gained extensive experience in the development of rare earth hydrometallurgical projects in Africa. These projects ranged from upfront beneficiation and concentration to the production of either rare earth oxides or chlorides or purified rare earths.

Although much of DRA’s experience was initially gained in Africa, the company has expanded that knowledge and expertise in the Australian rare earths industry over several projects. “It is this experience, combined with a trusted and proven relationship, that secured DRA this latest contract with Lynas. As the Mt Weld Expansion Project progressed from a high-level concept design into a detailed design, DRA remained agile in all aspects to ensure Lynas’ strategy was effectively executed.”

DRA adds: “The importance of a seamless transfer of project and client knowledge from the previous works to the current Expansion Project is something all parties were keenly aware of. Including key team members who have an established and respected relationship with Lynas is crucial in maximising insights and ensuring continuity on the project. This extended to DRA providing a design for each upgrade stage using the same team, allowing for information sharing across all stages, common reporting and project management.”

The Mt Weld Expansion Project includes a plant upgrade constructed adjacent to existing operations. All aspects of the design were considered to ensure operations could continue with the minimum impacts and construction could be safely executed near operations.

As the project is a brownfields plant, the design incorporates many inputs including 3D point cloud scans, LIDAR scans, and aerial photography. These items, supplemented by site visits and working with Lynas’ operations team, have resulted in a design that integrates well into the existing plant. DRA adds that its history in flotation concentrators has placed the company well to work with Lynas. The team’s experience in fine-grind tenacious flotation froths will see benefits for the operation. DRA is also involved in supporting the non-process infrastructure.

DRA concludes: “Rare earths projects are complex and challenging, requiring specialised skills and expertise in mining, processing, and environmental management. A trusted and innovative engineering partner can be the difference between failure and success. DRA has been that engineering partner for Lynas’ Mt Weld Rare Earths Project, providing high-quality design and engineering services, advanced technology and research capabilities, and strong ESG credentials. DRA has demonstrated its expertise and experience in delivering complex and challenging rare earths projects, while ensuring the best outcomes for its clients, stakeholders, and the environment.”