Exploration - Central Africa - Rare earths at the end of the rainbow

Production at Rainbow Rare Earths’ Gakara project in Burundi is expected to get underway within the next six months. Gakara is one of the highest grade rare earth element mining projects globally, with an estimated in situ grade of 47–67% total rare earth oxide (TREO), ahead of targeted first production and sales of rare earth concentrate in quarter four of 2017.

Location: Burundi
Resource: Rare earth elements

map of burundi

According to Martin Eales, CEO of Rainbow, the fast-tracked development schedule is bearing fruit. “We are making solid progress towards first production of rare earth concentrate within the next six months,” says Eales.

Mine construction work at Gakara commenced in April 2017, focusing on the initial mining site at Gasagwe. This will be the company’s primary source of run of mine (ROM) ore during 2017/18. The labour force has concentrated on stripping overburden at the surface of Gasagwe, thereby exposing the targeted ‘main vein’ to a height of at least 1m along its current exposed strike length. The uncovered vein will be relatively simple to extract and stockpile as required. “In addition, there has also been discoveries of several previously unrecorded veins, which will also be extracted and added to the ROM stockpile prior to the commissioning of the processing plant at Kabezi,” says Eales.

Meanwhile, work continues on improvements to the 2.3km Gasagwe access road from the nearest town of Mutambu, using local contractors. The road upgrade is required for the haul trucks to transport ROM ore to the processing plant; hence, there is no impact on current mining operations during its construction.

By the end of May 2017, the number of local workers trained and inducted by Rainbow’s team had doubled to 80 from the initial 40. As well as being trained to assist with mining activities, the new workers will also be assigned to exploration and road maintenance roles.

Rainbow’s ROM ore processing plant will be situated at Kabezi, 10km due south of Bujumbura and about 20km from the company’s mining areas. The site consists of relatively flat ground, close to the shore of Lake Tanganyika, and is located on a main asphalt road. This will provide ease of access for the container trucks collecting rare earth concentrate for export.

Rainbow’s EPCM contractor, Obsideo Consulting, continues to make good progress with equipment procurement, with the first shipment of containers having left South Africa during June. The plant construction timetable remains on track to deliver first rare earth concentrate for sale in quarter four of 2017.

Click below to read the September/October 2017 issue of African Mining

AM SeptOct2017

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