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Australia-based Cradle Resources has started all key activities at Panda Hill niobium project in Tanzania, targeting completion of the feasibility study by fourth quarter of this year.

The feasibility study now considers a revised concep,t which targets to set up a processing plant with capacity of 1.3 million tonnes per year and expand it to 2.6Mtpa after five years.

Cradle Resources managing director Grant Davey said: "Preliminary financial results calculated for a staged throughput scenario continues to highlight that Panda Hill is a world-class mineral resource project.

"According to preliminary estimates, the project would require $123m for development and an additional $77m for expansion."

"We are actively collecting all the necessary field information, as well as preparing for the 75t pilot plant test so that we have all the technical information to complete the final feasibility study."

The study is now focuses on sizing of processing plant, optimising equipment size, capex and operating cost of the operations.

According to preliminary estimates, the project would require $123m for development and an additional $77m for expansion.

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The company has submitted mining licence renewal documents to the Tanzanian Ministry of Energy and Minerals and the environmental and social impact assessment document to the National Environmental Management Council, and expecting approval by third quarter of this year.

Cradle Resources is also carrying out discussion with end-users and traders in the US, Europe, and Asia to finalise offtake agreement.

Davey added: "Offtake negotiations are progressing well and all licensing approval applications have been submitted to the government for assessment."

Panda Hill niobium project is located in the Mbeya region of south western Tanzania, about 650km of the capital Dar es Salaam.

The project has three mining licences covering an area of 22.1km².