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Angola’s Rare Earths Project on Track for 2024 Production

The project, backed by the sovereign wealth fund, is expected to start production in 2024 and become the first major rare earths mine in Africa.

by Motoni Olodun

Angola, one of Africa’s leading oil producers, is diversifying its economy with a major investment in rare earths mining. The country’s sovereign wealth fund, Fundo Soberano de Angola (FSDEA), is backing the development of the Longonjo rare earths project, which is expected to start production in 2024.

The project, located in the central Huambo province, is being developed by London-listed Pensana Rare Earths and its local subsidiary Ozango Minerais. The FSDEA owns a 16% stake in Pensana and has provided a $15-million bridging loan to accelerate the construction activities.

On January 10, the full board of the FSDEA visited the Longonjo site for a progress update. The board members were accompanied by the head of investment and key analysts of the fund.

FSDEA chairperson Armando Manuel said he was “delighted to see the excellent progress” that was being achieved on site, as the project was an important one for the fund and the country.

“We have financed the acceleration of construction activities to ensure the project maintains momentum while we work with the lender consortium to conclude the main finance,” he said. “This is a promising step towards leveraging nuclear fusion, often touted as the ‘holy grail’ of energy, to power a sustainable, clean-energy future.”

The Longonjo project is one of the world’s largest sources of neodymium and praseodymium, two rare earth elements that are essential for the production of high-strength magnets used in electric vehicles, wind turbines, smartphones, and other technologies.

According to Pensana, the project has the potential to become the first major rare earth mine in Africa and the first major rare earth oxide producer outside China in over a decade.

The project has already received environmental approval and a mining license from the Angolan government, as well as strong support from the local community.

Pensana CEO Tim George said the site team had transitioned to a high-performance delivery role and was busy preparing for the main construction activities.

“We are making good progress on site. Over the past few months, we have installed overhead powerlines, an underground water supply and effluent disposal system, and civil works for the camp. We are in good shape to commence construction activities as soon as the financing is completed,” he said.

The project is also expected to create significant economic and social benefits for Angola, including job creation, skills development, infrastructure improvement, and revenue generation.

Pensana has committed to implementing a comprehensive social and environmental management plan, which includes a livelihood restoration program, an agricultural demonstration plot, and a community development fund.

The project is part of Angola’s efforts to diversify its economy away from oil dependence and boost its industrial and manufacturing sectors.

Angola is also developing other mineral resources, such as diamonds, iron ore, copper, gold, and manganese, as well as investing in renewable energy, agriculture, and tourism.

The country is strategically located along the Atlantic coast and has access to the Lobito Corridor, a key infrastructure network that connects the Longonjo project to the Port of Lobito, from where the rare earths will be exported to global markets.

The Longonjo project is expected to produce about 4,600 tonnes of rare earth oxides per year in its first phase, with the possibility of expanding to 10,000 tonnes per year in the second phase.

The global demand for rare earths is projected to grow significantly in the coming years, as countries around the world seek to reduce their carbon emissions and transition to a green economy.

The project is also seen as a strategic asset for the diversification of the global rare earths supply chain, which is currently dominated by China.

By developing its own rare earths industry, Angola hopes to position itself as a key player in the global market and contribute to the sustainable development of the continent and the planet.

Source: Mining Weekly


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