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Steenkampskraal Outlines Rare Earth Production Schedule

by Adenike Adeodun

At the Critical Minerals Africa Conference, Graham Soden, a key figure at Steenkampskraal Monazite Mine, shared an ambitious strategy. It charts a course through 2027, focusing initially on monazite concentrate before delving into a diverse array of rare earth (RE) elements.

With R1 billion already injected into infrastructure, Steenkampskraal is poised for its next phase. This stage sets the gears in motion for rigorous mining endeavors, eyeing December 2024 for the first yield of monazite concentrate.

“Essential refurbishments are underway,” Soden stated, highlighting the rapid mobilization for underground mining following these enhancements.

The journey doesn’t stop there. As reported by African Mining Market, Future phases will amplify mining efforts, concentrating on monazite and introducing a cracking plant. Eventually, by the third phase, attention will turn to building a separation plant, a critical step for harvesting mixed RE oxides.

Funding these milestones necessitates hefty financial backing. From 2023 to 2024, initial fundraising rounds aim to secure up to US$20 million. These funds are earmarked primarily for ongoing development throughout the phases. Interestingly, another financial boost is anticipated in 2025, essential for bolstering monazite concentrate production and propelling the cracking plant’s establishment.

The market outlook for RE elements is bright, with forecasts showing potential tripling by 2035, according to Adamas Intelligence. This growth comes despite prices currently being at the mercy of China’s state policies. Indeed, China’s stronghold in the market accentuates considerable geopolitical and environmental concerns.

“Steenkampskraal is uniquely wealthy in critical minerals like Neodymium and Dysprosium,” affirmed Soden, pointing to the site’s advantageous stance amidst industry rivals.

Operational plans at Steenkampskraal are far-reaching, from tapping into existing ore supplies to fine-tuning extraction processes for peak efficiency. Post-phase one production predictions are striking, pegged at an annual 5,000 tonnes, based on time-tested separation and processing strategies.

Sustainability is a cornerstone of their commitment, Soden assured, with plans for the mine to transition to 100% renewable energy within two years after its inauguration. This approach signals a minimization of ecological footprints and an advocacy for clean energy, thanks to its thorium assets.

In essence, this initiative embodies responsible mining, marrying environmental prudence with industrial vigor. It’s a pledge to forge a legacy that respects the earth and energizes the sector.

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