Aim- and TSX-V-listed Malawi-focused rare earth element explorer Mkango Resources reports that the reconnaissance shallow soil sampling and auger programme at its Mchinji licence area has returned interesting grades of rutile plus anatase.
The results demonstrate the presence of naturally-occurring mineral forms of titanium dioxide (TiO2) mineralisation of up to 1.07%.
Rutile, anatase and ilmenite are naturally occurring TiO2 minerals, whose main uses are 90% for pigments, 5% production of titanium metal and 5% welding.
The 100%-owned, 869 km2 Mchinji licence (EPL 0544/19) in Mchinji district, Malawi, is held by Mkango’s subsidiary MKA Exploration.
The results indicate overall TiO2 grades in the range 0.51% to 4.10% in auger samples and 0.14% to 2.38% in soil samples; also ilmenite grades of 1.30% to 3.40% (average 1.85%).
The grade of the TiO2-bearing minerals in the highest-grading auger hole are in the range of 0.63% to 1.07% rutile plus anatase (average 0.73%) and 1.30% to 3.40% ilmenite (average 1.85%), hosted in free-dig saprolite material from surface.
Twelve vertical auger holes were drilled to depths of 0.45 m to 9.4 m, for a total of 35.8 m, from which 41 samples were collected.
Available equipment was unable to penetrate beneath a shallow ferricrete horizon in the Ludzi river channel to test the assumed river sands beneath, and eight holes failed to reach more than 2 m depth.
However, new auger exploration equipment, with improved ground-cutting capability, has been bought and is being shipped to Malawi.
The other four holes were drilled in saprolite on higher ground between the Ludzi tributaries.
Soil sampling was carried out in pits dug to 50 cm (B horizon) on a 500 m staggered grid in four areas of the licence, producing 134 samples.
Sample preparation and analysis was provided by Scientific Services Laboratory in Cape Town, South Africa, employing two-acid microwave digestion and ICP-OES techniques suitable for multi-element determination and following strict internal quality assurance and quality control procedures (QAQC), inserting blanks and standards.
Internal laboratory QAQC was also completed to include blanks, standards and duplicates.
The highest TiO2 grades were returned by nine consecutive samples in a single auger hole (A6), drilled to a depth of 8.9 m, that contain between 4.10% and 9.01% total heavy minerals and grade between 3.17% and 4.09% TiO2.
These samples were processed by heavy mineral separation and magnetic separation and the separated fractions were sent to XRD Analytical and Consulting in Pretoria, South Africa, for quantitative determination of the heavy minerals by X-ray diffraction.
Mkango president Alexander Lemon says the company is focused on developing the Songwe rare earth deposit in Phalombe district in Malawi and is looking forward to completing the feasibility study.
“We are very pleased to add this new rutile and ilmenite discovery to our portfolio of projects in Malawi.”
He adds that these early-stage results show similarities in terms of saprolite-hosted mineralisation to the recent rutile discoveries made on the adjoining Sovereign Metals licence to the east. This, says Lemon, suggests the potential for discovering high-grade rutile deposits within Mkango’s large licence area, in what could potentially be a new province of rutile mineralisation.
Mkango is planning an exploration programme of more extensive soil sampling, additional auger drilling, and mineralogical test work to identify rutile prospects across this potential new rutile province within the Mchinji licence. The exploration programme will be funded from the company's existing working capital.