Modern Mining

London-listed Rainbow, the rare earth element mining company, has announced its first quarterly operations update from its Gakara project in Burundi since commencing production in December 2017. Gakara is one of the highest grade rare earth element mining projects globally, with an estimated in situ grade of 47-67 % Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO).

As announced in December 2017, Rainbow successfully produced and exported its first 25-tonne batch of high grade rare earth concentrate and began commissioning of its gravity processing plant. 

Mining operations underway in the Gasagwe pit at Gakara (photo: Rainbow).

The processing plant at Kabezi was fully commissioned and handed over during the March quarter, and the ramp-up to full production has now begun. Some 279 tonnes of concentrate were produced in the three months to 31 March 2018 following 75 tonnes produced in December 2017. Now that construction and commissioning has been completed, production levels are expected to increase steadily over the rest of the year, as mining and processing methodologies are tested and optimised.

The average grade of concentrate produced was 62 % TREO, as assessed by a third party accredited laboratory on Rainbow’s behalf. The grades were consistent during the period, reporting in a range of 61-64 %.

All run of mine ore (ROM) processed into concentrate during the quarter by the plant at Kabezi was sourced from the Gasagwe pit. Rainbow is now developing highly attractive additional sources of ROM ore within the Gakara mining licence area in order to reach its target run rate of 5 000 tonnes per annum (approximately 400 tonnes per month) by the end of 2018. These areas are now expected to be in operation in advance of Gashirwe, the originally planned second mining area, due to their vein prospectivity and speed of development.

Production costs (including Burundi support costs) of US$2 068 per tonne of concentrate produced were relatively high, as expected, and will reduce significantly as production rates increase and the element of fixed costs is spread over larger tonnages.

Sales costs in the period amounted to US$646 per tonne of concentrate sold. These consisted of transport and shipment costs, the 3,5 % marketing and handling fee payable to thyssenkrupp Raw Materials (TK), and government royalties of 4 %.

The average realised sales price was US$2 357 per tonne during the period, based on 125 tonnes of concentrate sold. Rainbow sells its concentrate to TK at port in Africa (currently Mombasa), and TK concluded sales with two separate end customers in the quarter.

Rainbow maintained a LTIFR of 0,00 during the reporting period and, as at the end of the quarter, had achieved over 750 000 man hours free from Lost Time Injury since commencement of operations in April 2017.

Rainbow’s maiden drilling campaign commenced during the quarter, targeting a gravity anomaly identified at Kiyenzi and a number of magnetic anomalies identified by an airborne survey undertaken in 2017. 

“Following completion of our first full quarter of production, we are still on track to ramp up operations to our target of approximately 400 tonnes per month of rare earth concentrate by the end of the calendar year,” says Martin Eales, CEO of Rainbow. “Going forward, this increased productivity will enable us to reduce our production costs per tonne significantly. Furthermore, I'm pleased with the consistent exceptionally high grades of the concentrate produced during these first months of mining at Gakara which is the only producing rare earths mine in Africa and one of the few outside of China.”

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