Uganda has not halted the operations of Rwenzori Rare Metals Ltd – the partners of Ionic Rare Earths (IonicRE) – as reported on the Parliament of Uganda website recently.
The website quoted Prime Minister, Robinah Nabbanja as saying that the activities of Rwenzori Rare Metals Ltd, which is exploring for rare earth minerals in Makuutu, Busoga region needed to be stopped immediately.
Nabbanja also directed the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development to travel to the districts of Bugweri, Mayuge and Bugiri to establish the full facts on the ground.
The Prime Minister was responding to concerns raised by the Bugweri district Woman Member of Parliament, Rachel Magoola, who said residents had not been sensitized about the REE project and the company carrying out the exploration. Magoola had warned that this may lead to conflicts over land as the exploration activities intensified in the region.
However, according to a Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development official who preferred anonymity, the Prime Minister had been misled by the MP and as such IonicRE and Rwenzori Rare Metals would continue with their work uninterrupted.
“We will continue to engage the area MP, who we had just engaged in a round of sensitization in Makuutu,” the official noted, adding that politicians needed to guard against sensationalism as it would end up affecting investments in the industry.
Early this month, IonicRE announced a 70 per cent increase in the mineral resource estimate at Makuutu.
The project is estimated to host a mineral resource of 532-million tonnes, at 640 parts per million (ppm) total rare earths, with the indicated resource component increasing by 512%, to 404-million tonnes, at 670 ppm.
Ionic said that the updated mineral resource estimate cemented Makuutu as one of the world’s largest ionic adsorption clay deposits, with the potential to significantly increase, and as a globally strategic resource for low-cost, high-margin and long-term security of magnet and heavy rare earth oxide supply.
“This resource update at Makuutu has significantly exceeded my expectation. In essence, the mineralized system appears to be significantly larger than we had contemplated,” said Ionic Managing Director Tim Harrison.
Australian firm IonicRE owns 51 per cent of the Makuutu project, although that figure may go up to 60 per cent by October 2022 when the company completes a feasibility study. Rwenzori Rare Metals Limited owns the rest of the shares.