Home » Uganda Grants Ionic Licence for Rare Earth Mining

Uganda Grants Ionic Licence for Rare Earth Mining

Australia's Ionic Rare Earths Granted Mining Licence for Ugandan Project

by Ikeoluwa Ogungbangbe

Ionic Rare Earths, an Australian mining company, has received a mining licence from the Ugandan government for the Makuutu heavy rare earths project, marking the first large-scale mining licence issued in Uganda. This development opens doors for supply chain discussions and off-take agreements, positioning the company to make a final investment decision later this year, with initial production expected in 2026.

Situated approximately 40 km east of Jinja, a regional centre, and 120 km east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital city, the Makuutu project comprises six licences. Notably, it contains heavy rare earth oxides that can be easily extracted using conventional methods such as open pit mining and heap desorption.

Ionic Technologies International, a UK subsidiary wholly owned by Ionic Rare Earths and acquired in 2022, has developed processes for separating and recovering rare earths from ore concentrates and recycled permanent magnets. The subsidiary is actively working on commercializing this technology, with a demonstration plant at the Makuutu site set to begin production in Q1 2024.

The Ugandan Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) had previously expressed support for the project. Ionic Rare Earths’ Managing Director, Tim Harrison, emphasised the significance of this milestone, stating, “The formal award of the mining licence in Uganda reinforces the Makuutu Heavy Rare Earth project as one of the world’s largest and most advanced development-ready heavy rare earth element assets.”

Harrison also highlighted the progress being made at the Makuutu Demonstration Plant, which plays a crucial role in reducing the commercialization risks associated with the project by producing value-added mixed rare earth carbonate products for partners’ qualification and validation.

This announcement follows Ionic Rare Earths’ increased stake in Rwenzori Rare Metals, the owner of the Makuutu project, from 60% to 94% in December. The company is presently in discussions with the remaining 6% ownership holders.

Ionic Rare Earths anticipates the mine’s operational life to span at least 35 years, producing a rich magnet and heavy rare earth carbonate product basket comprising 71% rare earth content. Additionally, the project offers significant scalability potential through additional tenements.

As of the latest market data, shares in Ionic Rare Earths are trading at A2.2¢, resulting in a market capitalization of A$103.6 million ($68 million).

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