New Rare Earth Ore Deposits in Tanzania


". . .refining capability will either be developed in North America or Europe."

Rare earth elements (REEs) are the new black in mining circles, everywhere you turn the focus is on countering the perceived threat posed by China's monopoly on REE supply.

The elements are widely distributed in the earth's crust but often not in sufficient concentration to support commercial extraction. One resource that may be (and the reason for our conversation with Dr Paul) is Montero's Wigu Hill deposit in Tanzania.

Apparently Wigu Hill has a lot going for it, both geologically and geographically. Geologically because the deposit is carbonatite with no associated radioactive materials (such as uranium or thorium) present. Concentration is another facet of the geological advantages in Wigu's favor; concentration goes as high as 25% in places, but is likely to average 7%10%, according to a recent Mineweb article. The other advantage is Tanzania's geographic proximity to world-class mining, processing and refining expertise in neighboring South Africa. Dr. Paul explained that 20 years ago South Africa developed an effective extraction process to refine REE salts from Gypsum tailings but the commercial exploitation was dropped for want of scale. The project required a minimum of 2000 tons of feedstock per year and the resource was of too low a grade to achieve that. New interest has now developed on higher-grade deposits and technically, facilities could be developed in conjunction with Wigu Hill.

In reality though Dr. Paul believes refining capability will either be developed in North America or Europe, or both to meet growing demand for rare earth metals from the host of emerging green technologies.

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