Processing rare earths is more complex than base or precious metals, and the mineralogy and metallurgical work are key drivers in any project. The knowledge associated with the sector is growing; however, understanding of the sector is still limited. Due to the restricted awareness of the sector, Mkango has put a strong focus on research programmes geared towards rare earths, particularly in relation to the mineralogy and processing characteristics of the rare earth bearing host rock (carbonatite) at Songwe Hill and is successfully collaborating with the Camborne School of Mines (University of Exeter - UK), the British Geological Survey (BGS), the HiTech AlkCarb research group (EU), SOS MinErals (UK) and Mintek (South Africa).

These projects are in progress and we welcome enquiries related to the research.

Below is a list of research projects supported by Mkango Resources:

PhD Project (1) - Completed 2015  - "Carbonatite-hosted late-stage apatite as a potential source of the HREE's"

Investigating geological mechanisms that enrich the heavy rare earth elements (HREE) in carbonatite complexes:

  • Petrography and Geochemistry of the Songwe carbonatite and surrounding vents, Malawi
  • Carbonatite-hosted late-stage apatite as a potential host for the HREE?
  • Mechanisms and timing of hydrothermal mobilisation of the REE from carbonatites

21st General Meeting of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA 2014): Late-stage apatite: a potential HREE-enriched co-product of LREE minerals in carbonatites - An example from the Songwe Hill carbonatite, Malawi. Click here to view presentation

PhD Researcher: Sam Broom-Fendley

PhD Project (2) - "Resource efficiency in phosphate deposits"

Investigating and exploring new mineral processing methods for separation of phosphate (P2O5) from two contrasting deposits types: the Songwe Hill igneous carbonatite REE deposit in Malawi and sedimentary phosphorites in the Western desert, Iraq.

  • Mineralogy and geochemistry of samples from both deposits
  • Mineral processing experiments to develop new ways of separating REE minerals and apatite from the Songwe Hill REE deposit
  • Characterising waste materials and developing processing methodologies to separate waste materials and produce gypsum free from impurities from the Iraqi phosphorite deposits

21st General Meeting of the International Mineralogical Association (IMA 2014): Mineralogy and mineral processing of carbonatite-hosted REE and P2O5 at Songwe Hill, Malawi. Click here to view presentation

PhD Researcher: Safaa Al Ali

PhD Project (3) - “Resource efficient, low environmental impact production of rare earths from Songwe, Malawi”

Investigating and researching resource efficient, low environmental impact production of rare earths from Songwe, Malawi.

Researching improvements to the recovery of rare earth bearing minerals by carrying out fundamental studies of the mineral properties and flotation process.

PhD Researcher: Camilla Owens

HiTech AlkCarb

The HiTech AlkCarb project is funded under the European Union's Horizon 2020 Research and Innovation programme, to develop new geomodels and sustainable exploration methods for alkaline igneous rocks and carbonatites. It has four main objectives.

  • Develop new geomodels to explore for 'hi-tech' raw materials (such as the rare earth elements, scandium, niobium, tantalum, zirconium, hafnium and fluorspar) associated with alkaline rocks and carbonatites.
  • Improve and develop interpretation of geophysical and downhole data in order to understand alkaline rock and carbonatite systems down to depths of approximately one kilometre.
  • Build exploration expertise in hi-tech raw materials, and to ensure knowledge exchange between Europe and Africa.
  • Assess environmental and socio-economic impacts of mining for these raw materials, and develop best practice.
  • This project has received funding from the European Union's Horizon 2020 research and innovation programme (grant agreement no. 689909).

British Geological Survey - "Geology to Metallurgy of Critical Rare Earths"
Rare Earth Elements (REE) are used in many low carbon technologies, ranging from low energy lighting to permanent magnets in large wind turbines and hybrid cars. They are almost ubiquitous being found in every smartphone and computer, yet 97% of the world's supply comes from a few localities in China. In this project, the UK's geological research experts in rare earth ore deposits team up with leaders in:

  • Geological fluid compositions and modelling
  • Using fundamental physics and chemistry of minerals to model processes from first principles
  • Materials engineering expertise in extractive metallurgy

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