Rainbow Rare Earths has started a drilling programme at its Gakara project in Burundi, which is aimed at supporting the mine plan for the currently productive areas of the licence.

The project is also intended to explore the significant geological anomalies that were identified last year.

Claimed to be one of the highest-grade rare-earth element mining projects across the globe, the Gakara project has an in-situ estimated grade of between 47% and 67% total rare earth oxide (TREO).

Currently, contractors are carrying out drilling on the first phase of the programme, with drilling set to continue throughout the first quarter of this year.

The drilling programme will focus on improving the understanding of current production area at Gasagwe, as well as exploring the geophysical anomalies identified by the airborne survey completed in November last year.

It will also focus on the Kiyenzi site, where a large sill-like oval structure potentially 22m thick and 80m x 100m in size was discovered by a ground gravity survey earlier in the year.

It is reported that if the programme shows positive results, a second phase of drilling will take place during the second quarter and third quarter of this year, with the aim of producing a JORC-compliant resource statement in the second half of this year.

“Production ramp-up has been proceeding according to plan, with the target of hitting a run rate of 5,000tpa by the end of this year.”

The company noted that a further two shipments have been conducted following the announcement of the first shipment of concentrate in December last year.

According to Rainbow, production ramp-up has been proceeding according to plan, with the target of hitting a run rate of 5,000tpa by the end of this year.

Rainbow CEO Martin Eales said: “With the forecast demand in electric vehicles driving the growth for REEs and a strong cash balance following an oversubscribed institutional fundraising in December, we are in an excellent position to accelerate development at Gakara.

“As such, we are now commencing a drill programme to include the four exciting anomalies we identified in Q4 2017 and with a view to potentially delivering a maiden JORC Resource in the second half of 2018 and reaching our new production target of 6,000tpa during 2019. I look forward to reporting on our exploration programme as we continue to ramp up production at Gakara over the course of 2018.”

Following the successful fundraising concluded in December last year, work has been initiated to procure the capital equipment needed to increase production.

The company noted that results of each stage of the drilling campaign will be released as soon as the information is available, with first phase information expected in April.