Mkango Resources Limited, a Canadian-based mineral exploration and development company, on Monday started the process of sending 60 tonnes of rare earth samples to Australia for metallurgical pilot plant test.
The rock ore samples were moved from the exploration site at Songwe Hills in Phalombe to Blantyre by Bollore Logistics, which is arranging the shipping to Australia through Nacala Port in Mozambique.
Mining officials say metallurgical test work is an essential component of the exploration process to complete the bankable feasibility study, including the design of a processing plant for the mine.
Mkango Resources country director Burton Kachinjika said in a statement yesterday the samples will be put in a test pilot processing plant in Australia to estimate recovery factors and optimise the design of the future processing plant to be built at the future mine site.
“The whole process is aimed at making sure that before we construct a processing plant and mine, we can be 100 percent certain that we will be able to get the rare earths out of the rock profitably,” he said.
Phalombe district commissioner Memory Kaleso, who witnessed the loading of the rock samples, said the council expects to economically benefit from the project.
She said Mkango Resources has been transparent in its dealings, a development she said has assisted the council in making communities around the hill understand the process.
“We have jointly worked with Mkango from the beginning to this level. We have had a number of consultative meetings, and we had full council meetings, so we are aware of what is happening here,” she said.
Geological Survey Department acting director Kondwani Dombola said the process represents the last stages of exploration.
“To go into mining, there are many factors which need to be looked at and bulk sampling is one of these stages needed to complete a bankable feasibility study, then finding possible markets. Thereafter, the exploration company can make a decision to go into mining or not,” he said.
The rare earth exploration at Songwe Hill started in 2010 and the results of the bulk sample tests will help complete the bankable feasibility study which in turn will determine the future of the project.