HomeEast AfricaAfrica’s first rare earths producer on the cusp of production

Africa’s first rare earths producer on the cusp of production

Having wasted no time since its IPO debut on the LSE in January this year (in which it raised US$8 million – enough to fund Gakara to first production, Rainbow Rare Earths will have financed, constructed, commissioned and sold first rare earths concentrate from its Gakara project in record time.

“We are eagerly awaiting first production and sales from Gakara delivered on time and on budget by December, which comes at time of growing demand in the rare earths market for new sources of REEs – a vital input in some of the world’s fastest growing markets including renewable energy, electric vehicles, telecommunications and defence,” says Eales.

AUTHOR: Mining Review Africa’s senior deputy editor, Chantelle Kotze.

Unlocking Gakara’s potential

The Gakara operation, 90% owned by Rainbow Rare Earths and 10% by the Republic of Burundi, contains an ‘exploration target’ of 20 000 – 80 000 t of vein material with a basket strongly weighted towards magnet rare earths. With significant upside potential remaining within the mining licence, it has been Rainbow Rare Earths’ plan to fast track development of the operation and then increase the operation’s lifespan and production by opening up new mining areas within the 39 km2 mining licence.

For now though, Rainbow Rare Earths will initially mine the Gasagwe and Gashirwe West deposits before identifying further mining areas from its ongoing exploration. Gasagwe, the first of the two mining areas to be unlocked, is already well advanced with pre-production mining having commenced in April, followed by the extraction of the first ROM ore in September 2017. Meanwhile, production at Gashirwe West, the second deposit planned to be mined, will commence in 2018.

Most of the mining at Gasagwe and Gashirwe West is free-digging. Gasagwe is being mined at surface using a backhoe-trailer combination to strip away the waste and expose the vein material which will be mined manually. Open at surface, the ‘Main Vein’ has a 80+ m strike length as well as several other subsidiary veins that are connected or adjacent.

This article is printed in the December 2017 edition of Mining Review Africa – click here to view the full article

“Extremely encouraging is the fact that pre-stripping activities have revealed that the Main vein is significantly larger than initial estimates, as has the testwork of its composition, which in August 2017 indicated that the upper portions had an average grade of 62% total rare earth oxides (REO),” notes Eales.

The ROM ore produced from Gasagwe is being stockpiled till commissioning of the ore processing plant begins..

Meanwhile, Gashirwe West will likely be mined by means of underground up-dip room and pillar manual mining accessed through hand dug adits.

About 20 km from the mine site on the shores of Lake Tanganyika in Kabezi, the construction of the 5 tph processing plant is nearing completion. With an initial production guidance of between 2 250 – 3 000 tpa, the plant is expected to ramp up to a short term steady state production rate of 5 000 tpa of mineral concentrate by the end of 2018. At its 5 tph capacity the plant has been future proofed to be capable of comfortably handling between 10 000 – 20 000 tpa as production at Gakara increases in future.

Here the ROM ore will be subjected to a very simple process, notes Eales, which he explains will entail crushing, screening, jigging and shaking table processes to produce concentrate.

It is this simple mining and processing that has enabled the rapid development of Gakara and will continue to stand the project in good stead as a strategically important and economically robust mining asset.

Feature image credit: Rainbow Rare Earths

Mining at the Gasagwe deposit

Chantelle Kotze
Chantelle Kotze is a Johannesburg-based media professional. She is a contributor at Mining Review Africa (Clarion Events - Africa) and has created content for the media brand over the past 6 years.