DEI – Ionic Rare Earths Limited, the junior Australian mining firm exploring for rare earths metals at Makuutu, says it is considering putting up a refinery to purify products from its project in Busoga region.
The company, in a statement, said: “The board of Ionic Rare Earths Limited is pleased to advise that it has approved advancing to a formal evaluation of the business case for the development of a standalone rare earth separation and refining facility, to be developed for the downstream processing of mixed rare earth carbonate product from its Makuutu rare earths project in Uganda, to produce refined critical and heavy rare earth oxides.”
Ionic Re says a study for the refinery will zero down on the best location for the refinery anywhere in the world. This will be the first such infrastructure to be built and pegged to a Ugandan mining project.
Tim Harrison, the managing director of Ionic Re, said in a statement: “Our timeline to production from Makuutu remains firm – the focus is set on 2024. As we ramp Makuutu up over the rest of the decade to 2030, Ionic Re also wants to ensure we can build separation and refinery capacity to match that scale of production proposed at Makuutu. To meet those goals, now is the time to start this activity.”
Rare earths metals are used in the manufacturing of electric batteries and are used in smart phones too. China accounts for the largest share of rare earths in the world, at more than 90 per cent.
Ionic Re Limited says the refinery will also boost the traceability of the mineral, which appeals to the transparency that many western market buyers usually demand for. The Australian company says the refinery will have a capacity of refining 4,000 tonnes a year.
It is not clear how huge the deposits of rare earths at Makuutu are, although Ionic Re says preliminary survey results point to strong commercial viability of the project, with a shelf-life of about 27 years.
In late June 2021, the company said it contracted Mincore, an Australian firm, to undertake a feasibility study that will determine the potential of the Makuutu project.
Ionic Re owns 51 per cent of the Makuutu project, although that figure will go up to 60 per cent by October 2022 when the company completes the feasibility study. Rwenzori Rare Metals Ltd owns the rest of the shares.