Australian mineral exploration company Ionic Rare Earths has secured a large-scale mining licence from the Ugandan Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) for the Makuutu heavy rare earth project.

The licence was secured by Rwenzori Rare Metals, a company in which Ionic Rare Earths owns a 51% interest, while Rare Earth Elements Africa (REEA) holds a 42% stake. Ugandan Partners holds the remaining 7% stake.

Rwenzori holds a 100% stake in the Makuutu project, which covers around 298km² and includes six licences.

Located 40km from Jinja and 120km from the Ugandan capital city of Kampala, the project has a geology that hosts heavy rare earth oxides (HREO). These metal oxides can be extracted using rudimentary mining and processing methods.

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By GlobalData

The project is said to have a current mineral resource estimate of 532 million tonnes at 640ppm total rare earth oxides (TREO), with a cut-off grade of 200ppm total rare earth oxides minus cerium (TREO-CeO₂).

Stage one of the mining licence covers an area set for Ionic’s mining licence that constitutes 44km² of Makuutu’s tenements covering 298km² of land.

Ionic also released a positive feasibility study earlier this year and has received approval to build a demonstration plant at the project.

Ionic Rare Earths managing director Tim Harrison said: “We are pleased with the announcement today that the DGSM has officially approved for granting the large-scale mining licence TN03834 over RL 1693, which now completes all regulatory approvals on the award of the mining licence for the Makuutu heavy rare earth project.

“This is a vital step for Ionic Rare Earths and Rwenzori, and in mining, refining, and recycling heavy rare earths critical for the energy transition, advanced manufacturing, and defence.”

Harrison added: “This announcement reinforces the Makuutu project as one of the world’s largest and most advanced development-ready heavy rare earth element assets, and we look forward to progressing the next steps and commissioning our Demonstration Plant at Makuutu.”