Home » Rare Earths Bonanza: Mali Project Could Be One of the World’s Largest Deposits

Rare Earths Bonanza: Mali Project Could Be One of the World’s Largest Deposits

by Victor Adetimilehin

A new report by an Australian mining company has revealed that its Kangankunde project in Mali could hold between 400 and 800 million tonnes of rare earths, a group of 17 metals that are essential for many modern technologies. The project, which has already reported a maiden mineral resource of 261 million tonnes, is estimated to contain 5.7 million tonnes of rare earths, including 1.2 million tonnes of neodymium and praseodymium (NdPr), two key elements for electric vehicles and renewable energy.

The company, Lindian Resources, said that the exploration target is a “defining event” for both the company and Malawi, where the project is located. “It firmly positions Lindian as a major player in the industry with an asset that is fully permitted, licensed for production and enjoying very strong government and community support,” said Lindian executive chairperson Asimwe Kabunga.

Rare earths are in high demand globally, as they are used in electronics, defence, aerospace, and green technologies. However, the supply chain is dominated by China, which produces about 60% of the world’s rare earths and 85% of the processing capacity. This has raised concerns about the security and sustainability of the rare earths market, especially amid rising geopolitical tensions between China and other countries.

Several African countries have been exploring their potential to become alternative sources of rare earths, as they have rich deposits of these minerals. For example, Rainbow Rare Earths operates the Gakara mine in Burundi, which has a distribution agreement with ThyssenKrupp Material Trading and a co-operation agreement with TechMet for downstream processing. Peak Resources has received a special mining licence from the Tanzanian government for its Ngualla project, which is one of the largest and highest grade NdPr projects in the world. Namibia Critical Metals has also received a mining licence for its Lofdal heavy rare earths project in Namibia.

However, developing rare earths projects in Africa is not without challenges, as they require high capital investment, advanced technology, environmental compliance, and favourable regulatory frameworks. Some projects have faced delays or setbacks due to government interventions or market fluctuations. Therefore, it is important for African countries to create conducive conditions for attracting investment and ensuring responsible mining practices.

The Kangankunde project is expected to start production in late 2024, according to Lindian Resources. The company said it is making excellent progress for bringing its Stage 1 mining and processing operation online, backed with a strong cash balance. The project could be a game-changer for Malawi’s economy and for the global rare earths sector.

Source: Mining Weekly

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