Rare earths processor Great Western Minerals Group (CVE:GWG) said Thursday that it has appointed an engineering firm to begin the refurbishment of the previously-producing mine shaft at the company's Steenkamskraal rare earth project in South Africa, due to be completed by mid-November.
Work will include the refurbishment of the mine access decline, the construction of winding gear, the installation of dewatering pumps, as well as all infrastructure services will be installed throughout the underground mine area.
"Awarding this contract marks a significant watershed for the company as it commences its program to deliver Rare Earth production at Steenkampskraal by the end of 2012," said president and CEO Jim Engdahl.
"Vincent Mora, the Steenkampskraal Project Director, has been tireless in assembling a first rate development, mining and processing team in South Africa, moving rapidly forward."
To date, Great Western holds 93.1% of Rare Earth Extraction Co.(Rareco), having progressively increased its holding in the company, which owns the Steenkampskraal rare earth mine in South Africa, since last year. Great Western has now initiated the process to acquire 100% of Rareco.
In April, the company announced that it fast-tracked its development plans for Steenkampskraal, now targeting the start of underground mining operations in the first quarter of 2012.
The company has also nearly doubled the planned level of production at the site to approximately 5,000 tonnes of rare earth oxides (REO) per year, up from the 2,700 tonnes originally anticipated. Great Western also recently received approval from the National Nuclear Regulator of South Africa for its work program at Steenkampskraal.
The company's specialty rare earth alloys are used in the battery, magnet and aerospace industries. Great Western also holds interests in seven rare earth exploration and development properties in North America.