* Gets approvals for nuclear material storage, transport
* Will immediately start to rebuild historic mine shaft
TORONTO, May 9 (Reuters) - Great Western Minerals GWG.V said on Monday it had received full approval from the South African nuclear regulator to begin refurbishing the Steenkampskraal rare earth mine.
The company plans to have the previously producing mine back in production by the beginning of 2013.
The nuclear approvals will allow the company to transport and store radioactive materials such as thorium, a common by-product in rare earth deposits.
Great Western said that with the approvals, it would immediately start rebuilding the shaft at the mine, which operated in the 1950s and 1960s.
The company will also start an exploration program to expand the deposit and complete an official resource estimate.
Great Western plans to produce around 5,000 tonnes of rare earth oxides a year from the South African mine.
The Saskatoon, Saskatchewan-based company also owns various rare earth deposits in North America, as well as rare earth alloy and metal processing facilities in Europe and the United States.
Great Western’s shares closed at C$0.77 on Friday on the Toronto Stock Exchange. (Reporting by Julie Gordon, editing by Maureen Bavdek)