LONDON-listed Rainbow Rare Earths (Rainbow) – which is looking to produce rare earth metals from waste gypsum tailings dumps near Phalaborwa – has published a maiden JORC (Joint Ore Reserves Committee) inferred mineral resource estimate of 38.3 million tons (Mt) at 0.43% TREO (total rare earth oxides).
According to CEO George Bennett that is larger than the original 35Mt estimate for the gypsum stacks and underpins “… the opportunity for the rapid development of a low capital and operating cost, high-value processing facility in South Africa to provide the essential metals to power the green revolution from an extremely environmentally beneficial project”.
The gypsum stacks have been built up from some 50 years of hard rock phosphate mining near Phalaborwa.
Bennett added the maiden estimate showed that high value Neodymium (Nd) and Praseodymium (Pr) oxide represented 29.1% of the total contained rare earth oxides with an in-situ value of $95/t of gypsum.
Nd and Pr are essential metals for the manufacture of permanent magnets which are used in motors and turbines. Adding the in situ value of two other rare metal oxides – Dysprosium (Dy) and Terbium (Tb) – brought the overall value of the rare earth basket to $123/t of gypsum.
Bennett said the “road map to commercialising the Phalaborwa deposit is now clear” following recent metallurgical test work results which confirmed the gypsum stacks are “amenable to simple, direct leaching with low-cost sulphuric acid at ambient temperature and pressure.”
Bennett invested “significantly” in the July 2019 initial public offering by Rainbow and held an 8.2% stake in the company as of October last year. The chairman of Rainbow is Adonis Pouroulis who held an 18.1% stake in the company at that date.
Bennett was appointed CEO in August 2019. He has a long track record in junior mining having listed Shanta Gold in London in 2005 but is best known for founding MDM Engineering which was listed in London in 2008. Bennett sold MDM to global engineering company Amec Foster Wheeler in 2017 for $120m.