What is happening with African Rare Earths projects?
Updated: May 28
An opportunity update (08 November 2020)
At AmaranthCX, we currently keep tabs on 22 Rare Earth Elements (REEs) projects in Africa.
After a flurry of activity in the first half of the 2010s there appears to have been very little to report in the second half of the decade, however there has finally been some news.
Rainbow Rare Earths, announced recently (November 2020) that it had entered into a co-development agreement with Bosveld Phosphates to process the gypsum stockpiles at Bosveld Phosphates' Phalaborwa site.
Rainbow Rare Earths is now lead by South African origin entrepreneurs Adonis Pouroulis (Chairman) and George Bennett (CEO) and is listed on the LSE, with a market capitalisation of GBP26m.
Rainbow Rare Earths other project is the well known Gakara REE project in Burundi.
Rainbow Rare Earths, in their annoucement, described two gypsum "stacks" totaling 35 million tonnes of gypsum grading 0.6% TREO.
These stacks were by-products of what was originally the Sasol Phosacid plant that processed rock phosphate from Foskor and was bought by Bosveld Phosphates in 2012 and closed just a few years later.
The other significant news earlier this year was ASX listed Pensana Rare Earth PLC's dual listing on the LSE in July. Pensana is developing the Longonjo project in Angola and the listing appeared well received by investors. It now has a GBP134 million market capitalisation.
Pensana's marketing material stresses that the project is just 4km from the Lobito to Huambo railway line. All three major railways in Angola are now fully rehabilitated and operational and it will be interesting to see what other development projects come on stream to benefit from this re-established bulk logistics capacity.
The Angolan Sovereign Wealth Fund is a major equity investor in Pensana which has announced that it intends to proceed with an engineering, procurement, construction and financing (EPCF) model for Longonjo. To this end Pensana has signed a heads of agreement with China Great Wall Industry Corporation - which contemplates that Pensana will seek the proposed debt financing component of the EPCF be obtained from commercial banks
in China with credit insurance from SINOSURE. This suggest that there won't be much opportunity for non-Chinese suppliers to this project.
Namibian Critical Metals Inc announced in September 2020 that the Japan Oil, Gas
and Metals National Corporation (JOGMEC) will inject a further CAD1.1m to expand
and accelerate the current drilling program for the Lofdal Heavy Rare Earths Project
in northern Namibia. Staying in Namibia, E-Tech Metals has also been active on its Eureka Monzanite project with extensive trenching being conducted in late 2019.
South Africa's advanced REE projects are the privately held Zandkopsdrift, Steenkampskraal and Glenover projects. There does not appear to have been any public updates on the progress of these advanced projects for quite a number of years.
Elsewhere in Africa legal travails continue for the Mrima Hill project in Kenya and the Wigu Hills project in Tanzania.
A new trend has emerged to be explorers working on ionic clay-hosted REE deposits in Uganda and Malawi. These are Ionic Rare Earths, an ASX listed company and Altona Energy PLC, which trades on AIM. This is a change from the heuristic that all African REE projects were Carbonatite-hosted.
For an interesting seminar, presented by Dr Leon Kruger of Mintek to the SAIMM, on "Why rare earths are so special and why are they so hard to process?" click here.