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Lindian charges towards Malawi rare earths resource upgrade

Updated: May 2

An artist’s impression of Lindian Resources’ processing plant. Credit: File

Lindian Resources has launched a 4000m mine development drilling program at its Kangankunde rare earths project in Malawi in a bid to upgrade about 20 million tonnes of its inferred resource to higher categories before finalising its stage-one pit outline.

The company has described the campaign as being one of the key steps in its transition to production.

Early last month, management revealed details of its phase-two drill program that culminated in the definition of a maiden mineral resource estimate (MRE) of a whopping 261 million tonnes at 2.19 per cent total rare earth oxides (TREO) for 5.7 million tonnes of contained TREO in the inferred category. An estimated 1.2 million tonnes comprises the critical neodymium-praseodymium (Nd-Pr) element coupling for an average content amounting to about 21 percent of the overall MRE.

With the success of our inaugural 2-phase drill program and strength of our maiden MRE, we are pleased to report rapid ongoing progress with respect to our mine development plans. With on-site activities ramping up, we are preparing for another busy period of news flow in the December quarter as Lindian pursues its stated objective to develop Kangankunde into one of the world’s premier rare earth assets with Stage 1 commissioning at the end of 2024. Lindian Resources chief executive officer Alistair Stephens

The raw numbers place Kangankunde among the world’s biggest potential rare earths deposits and if mine development, economic block modelling and any infill or extension drilling can confirm a significant part of it as mineable, the operation will be positioned as a globally-strategic resource.

And the chances of that happening look far from impossible, with the company saying mineralisation appears to be open at depth as well as laterally and that the existing MRE contains higher-grade subsets that might sweeten up the initial mining.

In addition, a seemingly small, but significant shipping consideration has been eased since a post-MRE study undertaken by the minerals division of the Australian Nuclear Science and Technology Organisation (ANSTO) confirmed that rare earths concentrates from Kangankunde were not classified as radioactive for transport. The finding eliminates what might otherwise have been a potential roadblock for both downstream processing and future offtake agreements and makes the project even more attractive to parties seeking secure, long-term supply.

Lindian says its other mine-related works, studies and preparations are well in hand, with the civil engineering design of its stage-one processing plant progressing, including specific parameters for recovery, finishing and storage to meet a marketable volume of monazite mineral concentrate with an Nd-Pr ratio in the range of 18 to 22 per cent. It expects to soon reveal a detailed update of the plant design and project study works program.

Civil engineering designs are also nearing completion for the site support facilities such as administration, communications, mechanical and electrical workshops, water supply, water recycling, tailings storage, fuel and power. The company has submitted licence applications for water extraction and explosives storage and an environmental management plan has been developed and lodged and contractors have been shortlisted for tender following multiple site visits.

Lindian says it is nearing completion of engineering and contract documentation for the tendering and subsequent award of contracts for civil works construction, including roads, bulk earthworks, bore field, overland piping, a tailings storage facility and a return water dam.

Kangankunde is in the south of Malawi, 90km north of the city of Blantyre. The mineral tenements include a medium-scale mining licence inside an exploration licence, both of which are accompanied by environmental and social impact assessment licences issued under Malawi’s environmental management act.

The project is owned by Lindian’s subsidiary Rift Valley Resource Developments, which holds secure title to the mining licence and the requisite environmental and social impact assessment (ESIA) certificate, granting the company the right to develop, mine, process and sell mineral concentrate.

Geologically, the Kangankunde Hill rises to a height of up to 200m above the surrounding plain. The deposit comprises a central area of carbonatite rocks passing outwards through zones of altered breccias of varying composition from carbonatite, wall rock clasts in a carbonatite matrix, and ultimately into unaltered gneissic host rock.

As with many rare earths deposits, the main mineral in the Kangankunde deposit is monazite.

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