Makuutu rare earths project granted large-scale mining licence

18th January 2024 By: Tasneem Bulbulia - Senior Contributing Editor Online

ASX-listed Ionic Rare Earths (IonicRE) reports that Rwenzori Rare Metals, owner of the Makuutu heavy rare earth project, in Uganda, has formally received the granted large-scale mining licence over the central Makuutu tenement.

Large-scale mining licence (LML) 00334 was officially signed on January 17 at a ceremony in Kampala, by the Ugandan Minister of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) Dr Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu.

The award represents the first large-scale mining licence to be issued in Uganda under the Mining Act of 2022.

This further supports the flagship project status awarded to Makuutu in 2022 and reflects the strong support received from Uganda in the development of the project towards operations, IonicRE avers.

In December 2023, IonicRE announced an agreement with partners in Rwenzori to increase the company’s stake in Rwenzori and the Makuutu project from 60% to 94%, and further to this is also in discussions with partners on acquiring the remaining 6% ownership.

IonicRE MD Tim Harrison says the formal mining licence award has been diligently undertaken as the Ugandan stakeholders want long-term investment security for flagship projects.

“The official award of the mining licence is a tremendous achievement by all stakeholders involved.

"We thank the Ugandan government and, having navigated the new process together, we look forward to continue to invest in our project at Makuutu as we advance towards operations,” he highlights.

“The formal awarding of the mining licence at Makuutu to Rwenzori enables discussions with potential strategic and supply chain partners to progress to the next stage to bring Makuutu and a new supply of magnet and heavy rare earths to market.

“With this award, and discussions under way with potential partners, the project is aiming for final investment decision later this year, and first product to customers in early 2026,” Harrison outlines.

He highlights that progress continues to be made at Makuutu’s demonstration plant, which is indicated to be critical in de-risking the commercialisation of the project through the production of value added, mixed rare earth carbonate for the company’s partners to qualify and validate.

“It is an important step forward for IonicRE in mining, refining and recycling the heavy rare earths critical for the energy transition, advanced manufacturing, and defence.

“With the formal award of the mining licence in Uganda, it now reinforces the Makuutu heavy rare earth project as one of the world’s largest and most advanced development-ready heavy rare earth element assets and we look forward to commissioning our demonstration plant at Makuutu,” Harrison avers.