Songwe Hills rare earths project, Malawi – update

3rd February 2023 By: Sheila Barradas - Creamer Media Research Coordinator & Senior Deputy Editor

Songwe Hills rare earths project, Malawi – update

Name of the Project
Songwe Hills rare earths project.

South-eastern Malawi, between Lake Chilwa and the Mulanje Massif.

Project Owner/s
Mkango Resources.

Project Description
Songwe Hill was confirmed in July 2022 as one of the very few rare earths projects worldwide to have reached the definitive feasibility study (DFS).

The DFS envisages Songwe as a standalone project selling mixed rare-earth carbonates, as opposed to separated rare-earth oxides, and excluding Pulawy, which has potential to add significant downstream value.

The DFS envisages a conventional openpit contract mining operation, feeding mills, flotation and hydrometallurgy plants on site to produce a mixed rare-earth carbonate, with an operating life (mining and processing) of 18 years.

Mkango says there is potential to increase the mine life given the additional inferred resource, the potential to expand the mineral resource and the exploration potential of the nearby Nkalonje project.

The mixed rare-earth carbonate is expected to be shipped to the proposed Pulawy rare earth separation project, in Poland, for separation.

The processing capacity is about one-million tonnes a year of ore to produce an average of 5 954 t/y of total rare-earth oxides in mixed rare-earth carbonate for the first five years, and 4 081 t/y of total rare-earth oxides in mixed rare-earth carbonate from years 6 to 18.

Potential Job Creation
Not stated.

Net Present Value/Internal Rate of Return
The project has an after-tax net present value (NPV), at a 10% (nominal) discount rate, of $559-million and an internal rate of return 31.5% (nominal), with a payback of 2.5 years from full production. The NPV excludes any value attributable to the proposed Pulawy project, which is expected to process mixed rare-earth carbonate from Songwe Hill.

Capital Expenditure
Initial capital expenditure is estimated at $277-million, excluding a $34-million contingency, for the development of the mine, mill, flotation and hydrometallurgy plants, tailings storage facility and related project infrastructure in Malawi.

Planned Start/End Date
The DFS envisages mining starting in February 2025, with processing expected to ramp up from July 2025 and full production from September 2025.

Latest Developments
The Malawi Environmental Protection Agency (MEPA) has approved the environmental-, social- and health-impact assessment (ESHIA) for the Songwe Hill project.

The ESHIA is a fundamental requirement for the company to be granted a mining licence.

The Malawi Ministry of Justice has appointed a London-based international law firm with mining expertise to carry out a final review of the mining development agreement.

Key Contracts and Suppliers
The MSA Group (geology, mineral resource and geotechnical investigation); Bara Consulting (mining); Grinding Solutions (comminution); DRA Global Company subsidiary SENET (process plant, including on- and off-site infrastructure); Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (hydrometallurgy); KYSPY Investments and ALS Metallurgy (flotation); Epoch Resources (tailings storage facility); Digby Wells and Associates and Kongiwe Environmental (environmental-, social- and health-impact assessment); SGS Australia (geochemistry); Western Geotechnical and Laboratory Services (geotechnical testwork); Steinweg Bridge (logistics).

Contact Details for Project Information
Mkango Resources, tel +1 403 444 5979.