Ionic Rare Earths’ (IonicRE) subsidiary Rwenzori Rare Metals, the owner of the Makuutu Heavy Rare Earth Project, has secured a large-scale mining licence (LML00334) for the central Makuutu tenement.

This milestone marks the first issuance of a large-scale mining licence in Uganda under the Mining Act of 2022, reinforcing Makuutu’s flagship project status and Uganda’s support for the project’s development.

The Mining Licence LML00334, signed by the Ugandan Minister of Energy and Mineral Development Dr Ruth Nankabirwa Ssentamu on 17 January 2024, covers around 44km² of the nearly 300km² Makuutu Project.

IonicRE’s stake increase in Rwenzori and the Makuutu project, from 60% to 94%, aligns with its intent to consolidate ownership, with discussions ongoing to acquire the remaining 6%.

The company’s Makuutu Mineral Resource Estimate (MRE) currently stands at 532 million tonnes (mt) at 640 parts per million (ppm) Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO), with a cut-off grade of 200ppm TREO minus Cerium Oxide (CeO2).

The formal award of the mining licence follows the Notice of Grant published in the Ugandan Gazette on 9 January 2024 and the approval of submitted documentation by the Ugandan Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM).

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By GlobalData

As part of the licensing process, IonicRE secured land access agreements for more than 95% of the LML00334 area.

The company has also engaged in a verification process with the DGSM, receiving significant support from local stakeholders and landowners.

Before mining operations can begin, IonicRE is committed to compensating landowners and resolving the remaining land access agreements.

In addition to the mining licence, Rwenzori has applied for the renewal of Exploration Licences 00147 and 00148.

The exploration tenement EL00147 has shown promising results, with clay-hosted rare earth elements identified in 66 of 70 RAB drill holes.

The Makuutu Exploration Target, separate from the current MRE, suggests potential additional mineralisation ranging from 216 to 535mt at 400–600 ppm TREO.

Ionic Rare Earths managing director Tim Harrison said: “The official award of the mining licence is a tremendous achievement by all stakeholders involved.

“We thank the Ugandan Government, and having navigated the new process together, we look forward to continue to invest in our project at Makuutu as we advance towards operations.

“The formal awarding of the mining licence at Makuutu to Rwenzori enables discussions with potential strategic and supply chain partners to progress to the next stage to bring Makuutu and a new supply of magnet and heavy rare earths to market.

“It is an important step forward for Ionic Rare Earths in mining, refining and recycling the heavy rare earths critical for the energy transition, advanced manufacturing and defence.”