Ugandan rare earths project progressing to plan

28th July 2023

Ugandan rare earths project progressing  to plan

ICONIC FIND Ionic Rare Earths has made a substantial find in its initial core drilling programmes on its exploration licenses

Minerals exploration company Ionic Rare Earths (IonicRE) reports that the Phase 5 drill programme at its 60%-owned Makuutu rare earths project, in Uganda, is advancing to plan with the rotary air blast (RAB) drilling now completed on two of its exploration licences.

IonicRE MD Tim Harrison says the advancing drill programme follows on from the encouraging results the company identified when last drilling on this tenement.

He adds the second drill rig is due to be mobilised later this month, progressing core drilling of infill holes at RL00007 and that the company is confident this programme will upgrade the inferred resource to the indicated resource category.

The announcement made last month, also stated that the core drilling programme, planned for its retention licence, was expected to start at the end of last month as well.

The Makuutu project is located about 40 km east of the regional centre of Jinja and 120 km east of the capital city of Kampala, in eastern Uganda.

The reconnaissance RAB drilling, as part of the Phase 5 drilling programme, is part of a sequential programme to define areas of further growth at Makuutu, supporting the potential growth targets to further extend the resource along the 37-km-long mineralised corridor on IonicRE’s tenements.

The core drilling across the RL00007 licence is also a requirement to increase the resource classification of existing resources to support the next planned mining licence application at the larger Makuutu project, which is expected to be filed before the end of November 2024.

“The strategic focus of this Phase 5 exploration programme is to further define potential for further growth at Makuutu, plus also support increased confidence on the next mining licence agreement (MLA) area on RL00007,” says Harrison.

Makuutu currently ranks among the world’s largest and most advanced ionic adsorption clay rare earth element (REE) deposits, and as such, is a globally strategic resource for near term, low capital development and long-term security of magnet and heavy rare earth oxide supply.

With the addition of the other tenements at Makuutu, the larger consolidated project has substantial scope for future growth, and increasing geopolitical importance in underpinning the establishment of western sources for new magnet and heavy rare earths supply chains.

Consequently, growing the resource and defining more growth potential is a key discussion point with several potential strategic partners looking at securing the potential product from Makuutu, thereby underpinning heavy REE demand in the near term to support the new economy of electrification, advanced manufacturing and defence.

“We are also patiently awaiting approval of the new mining regulations in Uganda and have been involved in several discussions with key Uganda stakeholders,” he says, adding that IonicRE remains positive on near term approval of its MLA for the Stage 1 development at Makuutu on RL1693.

About the Project

Makuutu is made up of six tenements, with the Makuutu central tenement – RL1693, the only tenement used to support the recently announced positive Makuutu Stage 1 definitive feasibility study (DFS).

The DFS shows that Makuutu would have an initial 35-year mine life with earnings before interest, taxes, depreciation and amortisation of A$2.29-billion and an internal rate of return of 32.7%.

The Phase 5 drill programme will include about 4 380 m of core drilling used for resource upgrade on RL00007, plus 2 230 m of RAB drilling used for evaluation of exploration targets on the EL00147 and EL00257 prospects.

Currently, IonicRE’s greater Makuutu mineral resource estimate is estimated at 532-million tonnes at 640 parts per million (ppm) of total rare earth oxide (TREO), with a cutoff grade of 200 ppm TREO excluding cerium oxide.

Only a small component of this presently exists within RL00007 with an inferred resource on RL00007 of 39-million tonnes at 470 ppm TREO.

Notably, the zones targeted in the proposed RAB drilling programme represent the highest identified inferred TREO grade and exploration target mineralisation at Makuutu.