Mining company Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd, London, UK, has reported on the success of its maiden drilling campaign at its Gakara Project, in the Republic of Burundi. Gakara is said to be one of the highest grade rare earth element (REE) mining projects globally, with an estimated in situ grade of 47-67% total rare earth oxide. Rainbow expects a REE production rate of 5,000 tonnes per year by the end of 2018.
According to Rainbow, Gakara’s REE resources are weighted heavily toward magnetic rare earths, including neodymium and praseodymium. These types of rare earths are said to account for 70% of annual global REE sales, primarily due to their use in the manufacture of high-performance permanent magnets, which as well as being a key enabler of hybrid and electric vehicles are used extensively in the automotive industry to produce electric components such as those used in steering and braking.
Currently, China controls 90% of the rare earths market, due to the high concentration of rare earth deposits within its borders, but has in the past restricted the supply of rare earths for strategic and political reasons. In addition, the prices of Chinese rare earths are currently rising due to the stricter enforcement of its mining laws and a global surge in the demand for hybrid and electric vehicles.
Of the 120 million tons of land-based rare earth deposits globally, 44 million are thought to be located in China, 22 million in Brazil and 18 million in Russia. Gakara is said to hold the African continent’s only rare earth deposits.
Rainbow began Phase 1 of its Gakara drilling campaign in the first quarter of 2018, targeting the current production site at Gasagwe. The company also commenced drilling at the Kiyenzi prospect, where a high-priority gravity anomaly (indicative of rare earth deposits) had been identified, as well as a number of anomalies revealed by an airborne magnetic survey obtained in Q4 2017.
Exploration during the first phase has since located multiple intersections of breccia mineralisation at the Kiyenzi site, some up to two metres thick, which initial testing has confirmed as containing high grade REE. The depth of these intersections ranges from two metres below the surface to thirty-two metres, and due to their width, they are expected to be amenable to mechanised extraction at greater volumes than the deposits at Gasagwe.
Rainbow stated that it expects to complete Phase 1 of the campaign at the end of June 2018, by drilling the four remaining magnetic anomalies which have been identified at Gakara.
Phase 2 will commence in the second half 2018 and will comprise approximately 750 metres of further core drilling focused on the Kiyenzi site, in addition to further trenching and terracing. Should the mineralisation discovered to-date prove sufficiently consistent, the company has stated that it will model and report a code-compliant resource in the third quarter of 2018.