Pensana Metals has contracted the Wood Group to execute a preliminary feasibility study (PFS) to accelerate the development of its Longonjo NdPr project in Angola.

The feasibility study is intended to focus on the delivery of a low capital cost open pit mining operation that will extract the elements Neodymium and Praseodymium, collectively known as NdPr. The chemicals are typically used in the construction of permanent magnets, often used in electric vehicles and win turbines.

The proposed project will also involve the export of flotation concentrates to customers in China through the recently upgraded Benguela rail line and the Atlantic deep‐water port of Lobito.

Located just 4km from the Longonjo NdPr project, the Chinese-built $1.8bn Benguela rail line runs directly to the Atlantic port at Lobito, connecting the project’s customers in China.

With discussions with potential financiers in progress, the finalisation of the financing package for the project is expected to coincide with the completion of the PFS, which is planned in September 2019.

According to the Pensana, a favorable PFS will give way to immediate start of the front end engineering design and engineering procurement construction management for the project, taking into account the work completed to date and the complexity of the operation.

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“We are looking at a low capital cost, shallow open pit and flotation operation producing a high-grade concentrate for export to China.”

Pensana Metals chief operating officer Dave Hammond said: “The development concept is very straightforward. We are looking at a low capital cost, shallow open pit and flotation operation producing a high-grade concentrate for export to China via the adjacent major rail and port infrastructure.

“Last month’s substantially increased Mineral Resource estimate has enabled us to bring forward the PFS. Our aim is to get into production and build our customer base at a time when [electric vehicle] and wind turbine manufacturers are driving the increasing demand for NdPr magnets for electric motors and Chinese rare earth processors are looking for additional low-cost feedstock.”

A shallow open pit mine and flotation plant on site will form the base case of PFS for the initial development of Longonjo project.

In February, a large, high grade mineral resources estimate for Longonjo NdPr project, which is 84% owned by Pensana, was completed.