Construction has started on a demonstration plant at rare earth minerals developer Ionic Rare Earths’ (IonicRE’s) 60%-owned Makuutu heavy rare earths project, in Uganda.
The installation contract is being carried out by local Ugandan operating entity Rwenzori Rare Metals (RRM).
“The commercialisation of our recycling technology at our Belfast facility [in Ireland] and our focus on the delivery of the Makuutu heavy rare earths project in Uganda positions us to provide a secure, sustainable, and traceable supply of magnet rare earth oxides,” says IonicRE MD Tim Harrison.
“We are harnessing our technology to accelerate our mining, refining and recycling of magnets and heavy rare earths that are critical for the energy transition, advanced manufacturing and defence.”
At the Makuutu demonstration plant technical facility, earthworks have been completed, the facility shed fabricated and delivered to site and the erection of the technical facility has started.
Foundation formwork is currently being set out, with concrete footings to start on July 29, which will be followed by superstructure erection within the next four weeks.
The Makuutu demonstration plant technical facility will validate metallurgical test work and provide further technical validation basis for grade control, mine design, materials handling, metallurgical reconciliation and construction activity.
This will be done while also supporting project financing and strategic partner activity.
“The progress allows IonicRE and RRM to harness our processing innovations to accelerate and validate mine development with a clear process plan to production and profitability.
“This step will also strengthen talks we have progressed with supply chain partners, where further value-adding has been identified. It is a globally strategic resource for near-term development and long-term security of magnet and heavy rare earth oxide supply,” Harrison adds.
Harrison states that RRM’s in-country manager has received feedback from a Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) representative, advising that the Ugandan authorities will expedite a review of outstanding relevant paperwork within days to allow for the gazetting of updated mining regulations.
“Following that, a finalisation of the mining licence application (MLA) fee payment can be lodged and the review and award of the MLA on retension licence (RL) 1693 (TN03834) shortly thereafter.”
IonicRE, through RRM, has been in regular dialogue with representatives of the Ugandan MEMD for an update on the MLA and the Ugandan government’s progress with updating mining regulations.
The time and diligence to legislate Uganda’s new mining regulations demonstrates that the government is intent on securing the right balance between growing the economy and ensuring sustainable mining practices and balancing stakeholder interest, notes IonicRE.
The longer-than-expected time taken to update the mining regulations has extended timelines for their gazetting and, therefore, the approval of Makuutu’s MLA for RL 1693 (TN03834).
Uganda’s mining industry is developing and due care is being taken by the authorities to consult widely on the regulations. IonicRE adds that the MEMD has pledged its commitment to have the regulations gazetted as soon as appropriate reviews are completed.
The Makuutu project has the government’s full support and is set to become Uganda’s flagship mine, enthuses IonicRE.
“To demonstrate MEMD commitment to fast-track licensing decision-making, and to ensure delays in considering the Makuutu mining licence over RL 1693 are minimised, the Department of Geology, Survey and Mines has committed to reviewing the Stage 1 definitive feasibility study to ensure any areas of clarification can be identified and actioned immediately to support the swift evaluation of the MLA.
“With no further inter-government department queries anticipated, it is expected that the new regulations will be gazetted within the next fortnight,” says Harrison.