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Great Western makes progress on Steenkampskraal rare earth separation plant

Great Western Minerals Group (CVE:GWG) announced Thursday that it is making substantial progress on the development of its joint venture agreement with Ganzhou Qiandong Rare Earth Group (GQD) of China regarding the construction and operation of a rare earth separation plant for its Steenkampskraal mine in South Africa.

In late July, Great Western had announced it signed an agreement with GQD, forming a joint venture company called Great Western GQD Rare Earth Materials, in which Great Western holds 75% ownership, with GQD holding the remaining 25%.

This new company is to be responsible for the design, manufacture, construction, commissioning and operation of the planned separation facility.

The separation plant will be fed with rare earth chloride that Great Western produces at its South African Steenkampskraal mine, and possibly with feedstock from other sources in the region.

Great Western's team of metallurgists will work alongside GQD to finish process and plant design in order to start construction of the facility early next year, Great Western had said at that time.

But, the agreement had been delayed. Great Western and its Chinese partner had originally agreed to finalize the terms of their agreement by the end of August.

Now, however, Great Western said a team of six GQD engineers will travel to South Africa in the coming weeks to continue discussions on the design and construction of the plant.

Great Western will also host a Steenkampskraal site visit for GQD, followed by discussion regarding arrangements for utilities and labour requirements for the plant.

Together, Great Western and GQD will work to finalize the agreement, the company said.

Jim Engdahl, Great Western president and CEO, said: "We continue to work our way through the development process for the separation plant with the active participation of GQD."

"Thanks to the long standing business relationship between GWMG's Less Common Metals and GQD, the minor delay we have experienced in finalizing the Agreement is not preventing GQD from being fully involved in the work on the separation plant, as evidenced by the upcoming meetings and site visit."