Home » Uganda backs Australian firm’s rare earths project amid global demand

Uganda backs Australian firm’s rare earths project amid global demand

Uganda's Rare Earths Gamble: A Strategic Move in a Changing Global Landscape

by Motoni Olodun

The Ugandan government has expressed its support for an Australian company’s plan to develop a rare earth project in the country, as global demand for the critical minerals surges because of their use in clean energy and high-tech applications.

Ionic Rare Earths, an exploration and development company based in Perth, is advancing its flagship Makuutu Heavy Rare Earths Project in eastern Uganda, which it claims is one of the world’s largest and most advanced development-ready heavy rare earth element assets.

The company’s managing director, Tim Harrison, met with the Ugandan Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Dr Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu, at the Africa Down Under Mining Conference 2023 in Perth earlier this month.

According to a statement by Ionic Rare Earths, the minister indicated her support for the Makuutu project and said it was one of the world’s best rare earth resources.

“Uganda is committed to developing its mining sector, in line with the Mining and Minerals Act 2022 and its 2040 Vision. This is a flagship project to establish Uganda as a strategic partner in global supply chains for heavy rare earths,” the minister said.

Heavy rare earths are a group of 17 metals essential for producing electric vehicles, renewable energy technologies, smartphones, computers, and other devices. They include elements such as neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, and terbium.

China currently dominates the global production and processing of rare earths, accounting for about 60% of output and 85% of refining capacity. However, rising geopolitical tensions between China and other countries, such as the US and Australia, have prompted efforts to diversify the supply chain and reduce reliance on Beijing.

Australia’s Minister for Resources, Madeleine King, also praised the partnership between Australia and Uganda represented by Makuutu. She said that the abundance of natural resources in African nations that help to produce critical clean energy technologies presents “great opportunities for us to work together across international borders.”

“An example, because I know they’re represented at this conference, is the Australian company Ionic Rare Earths. Ionic Rare Earths operates in Uganda and develops rare earths from ionic clay projects. The company is focused on developing its flagship Makuutu Rare Earths project to become a significant supplier of critical and heavy rare earths to support the global green energy transition,” King said.

Harrison said that Uganda’s new mining laws and regulations offer a clear framework for mineral development. He also welcomed the government’s support for expediting approvals for the Makuutu project.

Ionic Rare Earths is one of many companies pursuing rare earths projects in Africa. Other examples include the Rainbow Rare Earths’ Gakara project in Burundi, the Peak Resources’ Ngualla project in Tanzania, and the Namibia Critical Metals’ Lofdal project in Namibia. These projects aim to tap into Africa’s largely untapped potential in rare earths and contribute to the global demand for these strategic minerals.

Source: Mining Review Africa

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