Capital Hill has extended the Exclusive Exploration Licence (EPL) for Mkango Resources Limited, the company searching for rare earth metals at Songwe Hill in Phalombe for another two years, The Daily Times has established.

Mining Minister John Bande confirmed the development in an interview on Thursday.

“It is true that we have renewed their exploration licence for two more years,” said Bande.

Mkango Resource said in a statement on Tuesday that the renewal is effective January 20, 2013 and grants the company exclusive rights to carry on prospecting operations for all 17 rare earth elements in the area.

The elements the company is hunting for include yttrium in addition to strontium, niobium, iron ore, manganese, gold, silver, copper, bauxite, fluorite, phosphate, uranium, thorium, monazite, nepheline syenite, zircon, tantalum, clay, kaolinite, and associated minerals, over an area of 1,283 km2.

The miner says it has committed K150 million (about US$429,800) for the Phalombe EPL over the next two years.

Mkango Resource Chief Executive Office Mkango William Dawes said the company has successfully delivered on the objectives outlined at the time of listing and is now focused on progressing the Songwe Hill project to the production stage.

“Mkango believes Malawi is one of the most favourable jurisdictions to be operating in Africa and has the potential to become one of Africa’s foremost rare earth producers,” said Dawes.

The miner says its main priority with respect to the Songwe Hill project is completion of scoping metallurgical test work in parallel with further mineralogical studies, both of which are partially funded by external research programmes in South Africa and the United Kingdom.

Mkango further said it is evaluating a number of potential flowsheet options in parallel with flowsheet optimisation, arguing that the results of this work will be a key component of scoping and feasibility studies.

“Given the significant size of the indicated mineral resource already defined by Mkango at Songwe Hill, no further drilling is anticipated in the near term. The current focus on the ground is on regional exploration within the Phalombe and Thambani Licences, commencement of environmental studies at Songwe Hill and continuation of the company’s social responsibility initiatives,” says Mkango.

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ZIMENE MUMAKONDA

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