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Bora buys into Steenkampskraal as strategic partner

Steenkampskraal mine CEO Graham Soden and BMS owner and CEO Enock Mathebula

Steenkampskraal mine CEO Graham Soden and BMS owner and CEO Enock Mathebula

7th February 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online

     

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Mining services company Bora Mining Services (BMS) has acquired a share in the Steenkampskraal monazite mine, in the Western Cape, for an undisclosed sum as a strategic partner. 

The partnership has enabled the start of activities to bring the mine into production. BMS is providing the capital, staffing and equipment to start with the refurbishment, preliminary construction work and mining contract services. 

“It is a brownfield project with developed underground and surface infrastructure with approximately R1-billion already invested into the mine’s infrastructure,” says BMS owner and CEO Enock Mathebula, who has been appointed as Steenkampskaal Holdings chairperson.

“Steenkampskraal offers significant investment opportunities as one of the highest-grade rare earths resource in the world at 14.5% contained total rare earth oxides (TREO) and yttrium oxide on average, greater than 90 g/t gold equivalent,” he says. 

“Mathebula is a successful entrepreneur who has developed a group of companies focused on actively supporting the mining industry as contractors for underground, rehabilitation and surface mining operations. His contribution through the Enock Mathebula Foundation is immense with the provision of numerous social upliftment, training and mentoring programmes,” Steenkampskraal mine CEO Graham Soden adds.

BMS is a full-service underground and surface mining company specialising in integrated management solutions that help mines meet their development and production scopes.

Soden explains that, following recent discussions and positive feedback from the National Nuclear Regulator and the Department of Mineral Resources and Energy, the decision was made to go ahead with BMS to provide a turnkey solution for the development of the project. 

“With the official startup date in the first week of January, the first monazite concentrate is expected to be produced around mid-fourth quarter this year,” he adds.

As part of the production strategy, Obsideo Consulting will be contracted on a hybrid build, own, operate, transfer system to produce monazite concentrate. Initially, this will compromise 30% TREO in Phase 1a. This will progress to producing monazite concentrate containing 50% TREO in Phase 1b.

Soden says the mine has a known resource of about 605 000 t at an average grade of 14.5% TREO for a total of 86 900 t contained TREO. The total quantity of neodymium in the mine is 15 600 t at a grade of 2.58% neodymium oxide. 

“There is great potential to further increase the mineral resource beyond the current mine area through an ongoing exploration programme,” he adds.

Mathebula says that the dynamic growth strategy covers producing monazite concentrate with the construction of a monazite concentration plant in Phase 1, followed by the construction of a cracking plant to produce mixed rare earth carbonate (MREC) and thorium in Phase 2. 

“Preliminary investigations and discussions are underway to develop a separation plant to produce individual rare earth oxides in Phase 3,” he adds.

Soden says the first phase of a three-phase process will involve the mobilisation of mining and processing plant and equipment to the site, refurbishing the decline and shaft area, and re-equipping the headgear and infrastructure.

He notes that there are ongoing negotiations for the purchase of the concentrate generated from Phase 1 and into Phase 2. 

“The thorium product is traversing well, which effectively could fast-track Phase 2. Offtake negotiations are ongoing to supply rare earth product to the Far East, Europe and the US and Canada, all of which could fast-track the development scheduling of the various phases substantially,” Soden explains.

He says the thorium market has changed significantly in recent years. 

“A number of enquiries have been received both locally and internationally for thorium as a nuclear fuel for replacement of uranium. The safety and environmental benefits far overshadow uranium. Thorium isotopes are also in demand for cancer therapy and ongoing discussions are underway to supply thorium to allow the extraction of these isotopes,” Soden says.

The second phase will involve increased mining volumes and monazite concentrate production and all metallurgical test work, design and planning for the construction and commissioning of a monazite cracking plant. This will produce MREC and thorium. In this phase, the design and planning of a rare earth separation plant will also be undertaken.

In Phase 3, the construction and commissioning of the separation plant will be completed to produce mixed rare earth oxides. The period from January 2026 to December 2026 will see the cracking plant commissioning and initial production of MREC and thorium. 

“The period [from] January 2027 onwards will see the steady state production of monazite concentrate to the cracking plant with the production of MREC and thorium, with plans to produce individual rare earth oxides,” Soden adds.

He says that the Steenkampskraal mine deposit is rich in neodymium, praseodymium, dysprosium, terbium and other rare earth minerals. The primary rare earth oxide content elements of the mine are neodymium at 18%, dysprosium at 1%, praseodymium at 5.1%, terbium at 0.2% gadolinium at 2% and cerium at 45.3%.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online

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