The Mount Peake vanadium-iron-titanium mine is a world-class rare earths deposit located in the Northern Territory of Australia. It is also one of the most advanced rare earths mine projects in the world.

TNG, an Australian resource and mineral processing technology company based in Perth, is the owner and developer of the project.

Mount Peake is expected to become one of the top ten global producers of high-quality strategy products including vanadium pentoxide, titanium dioxide pigment, and iron ore fines.

Australia’s Northern Territory Government awarded major project status to Mount Peake in 2012 and entered a project facilitation agreement in 2016.

TNG completed an updated definitive feasibility study (DFS) for the project in November 2017. The DFS proposed for a two-stage operation of the mine, with an estimated capital expenditure of £493.9m (A$853m) for stage one and £561m (A$969m) for stage two.

The company received final federal environmental approval in May 2018, followed by mineral leases in November 2018. It is currently carrying out a detailed front-end engineering and design (FEED) study. It will be followed by metallurgical test work at the Mount Peake mine site.

The Mount Peake vanadium-iron-titanium mine is expected to have an estimated mine life of 37 years. The initial production from the plant is expected to be two million tonnes per annum (Mtpa).

Location and site details

The mine site is approximately 235km north of Alice Springs in the Arunta Province of Northern Territory. Some of the prominent water reserves include Lander and Hanson Rivers among other water resources.

The project site is located approximately 10km away from TNG’s Darwin TIVAN processing facility which will treat magnetite concentrate from the Mount Peake mine site using TNG’s patented TIVAN® process.

Geology and mineralisation

The Mount Peake deposit forms part of a large polymetallic ore body. The land is predominantly a mulga vegetation area with rocky outcrops and some areas of bloodwood, spinifex, coolabah, open shrubland and river redgums especially along braided river bed systems.

The deposit was discovered in 2008 through airborne magnetic and electromagnetic surveys and targeted nickel exploration.

As mineralisation occurs at shallow depths, the deposit is amenable for open-pit mining.

Ore reserves at Mount Peake

The total mineral resources of the site are estimated to be 160Mt, of which 118Mt are measured, 19.5Mt are indicated, and 22Mt are inferred.

The Mount Peake ore is estimated to contain 0.28% vanadium pentoxide, 5.31% titanium dioxide, and 22.81% iron oxide.

During the phase one production, the mine will produce 17,560tpa of vanadium pentoxide, 236,000tpa of high-quality titanium dioxide pigment, and 637,000tpa of pig iron.

Mining and ore processing for the Mount Peake mine

The Mount Peake mine will employ conventional open-pit mining method involving drill, blast, load and haul operations with the use of excavators and large mining equipment.

The concentrated ore will be trucked to the nearby TIVAN processing plant at Darwin and the waste will be dumped at the edge of open pit.

The TIVAN processing plant will have a design feed capacity of 900,000t of magnetite concentrate per annum during initial four years of production. The capacity is planned to be increased to 1.8Mt by the fifth year of production.

The processing plant will have an operational life of about 40 years and will employ feed preparation, leaching, extraction and acid regeneration methods for the production of vanadium pentoxide, pigment grade titanium dioxide and pig iron.

Certain parts of the plant will be developed under build-own-operate-transfer (BOOT) arrangements.

Infrastructure facilities

The stage one capital expenditure of the mine includes £119.8m (A$207m) for mining and infrastructure and £313.2m (A$541m) for the process plant, while the stage two capital expenditure includes £70.64m (A$122m) for mining and infrastructure and £431.35m (A$745m) for the process plant.

The Mount Peake mine is supported by existing power and transport infrastructure nearby. It is situated in close proximity to the Stuart Highway, Alice Springs-Darwin Railway, and a nearby gas pipeline.

The nearby large aquifer system will provide a long-term water source for the Mount Peake mine operations.

The mine site is also supported by a 40km-long overhead power line, a campsite and village accommodation, and a rail siding facility.

Mount Peake project financing

TNG appointed KfW IPEX-Bank as the senior debt advisor to raise funds up to $600m (A$850m) for the project development and construction through debt financing in December 2018.

Off-take agreements

WOOJIN Metals entered into a binding life-of-mine off-take agreement with TNG for the purchase of minimum 60% vanadium output produced at the mine in March 2015.

Gunvor (Singapore) signed a binding life-of-mine off-take agreement to buy iron products from the project in March 2016.

In May 2019, TNG signed a life-of-mine off-take and marketing agreement with DKSH for the sale of 100% of titanium dioxide pigment produced at Mount Peake.

Contractors involved

TNG is conducting the project’s FEED study in collaboration with various contractors including the German metallurgical engineering firm SMS group.

Downer EDI was selected to execute the development, construction and operation of the project.

The company engaged McMahon Services for the design and tendering for non-process infrastructure.