Mkango Resources has started a diamond drilling programme at the Songwe Hill rare earths project in Malawi.

The company explained that the drilling programme is an important part of its feasibility study for the project.

Noble Group subsidiary Talaxis is covering the costs of the feasibility study, in exchange for a 49% stake in the project.

“We are excited to kick off what will be the largest drill programme to date at Songwe.”

Under the drilling programme, which will continue to depths of at least 5km, Mkango will focus on infill, step-out and geotechnical drilling.

Mkango Resources CEO William Dawes said: “This is a culmination of extensive preparatory work completed over recent months and we are excited to kick off what will be the largest drill programme to date at Songwe.

“Mkango is fully funded to completion of a feasibility study with a clearly defined pathway to production.

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“We look forward to keeping the market updated as we progress through the drilling programme and other major milestones.”

So far the company has constructed more than 50 drill pads, as well as new access roads and an enlarged camp infrastructure.

Previously, two drilling programmes were completed at Songwe in 2011 and 2012, totalling around 6.85km and enabling the company to estimate the mine’s mineral resources.

Mkango intends to complete an updated mineral resource estimate by the end of this year.

The company holds interests in three exclusive prospecting licences in Malawi, including the Phalombe, the Thambani and the Chimimbe Hill.