The Department of Mineral Resources and Energy (DMRE) has dismissed an appeal lodged against the decision of the Regional Manager: Western Cape Region of the DMRE to reject the appellant’s prospecting right application in respect of Portion 1 of the Farm Steenkamps Kraal 70. Currently Steenkampskraal Monazite Mine (SMM) has the right to mine all the minerals in the 474-hectare mining right (MR) area, except diamonds and oil.
The Mineral and Petroleum Resources Development Act 28 of 2002 (MPRDA) prohibits the acceptance of the prospecting right application where there is a right granted to another entity for the same mineral and land. Chairman of Steenkampskraal Holdings (SMM’s parent company) Trevor Blench, said it was unusual for an application for a prospecting right to be made over an existing DMRE-approved mining right. “We welcome the decision and at no stage were we concerned about the DMRE not dismissing the appeal. We thank the DMRE for their work,” he said.
SMM has invested a total of about USD 50 million to bring the mine back into production. The remaining capex requirement to bring the mine back into production is low and is estimated to be about USD 5 million. The capex to build a monazite concentration plant is estimated to be an additional USD 5 million.
“SMM has made a large investment to increase the mineral resource and to confirm this resource in compliance with the Canadian NI 43-101 standards. This NI 43-101 Mineral Resource Estimate (Resource) indicates the presence of 605,000 tons of ore, an average grade of 14.4%, and 86,900 tons of contained rare earth oxides (REO),” Mr Blench said.
The neodymium (Nd) grade, on its own, is 2.58% and the quantity of Nd in the Resource is 15,630 tons; the praseodymium (Pr) grade is 0.74% and the quantity of Pr in the Resource is 4,459 tons; the dysprosium (Dy) grade is 0.14% and the quantity of Dy in the Resource is 867 tons; the terbium (Tb) grade is 0.03% and the quantity of Tb in the Resource is 182 tons. The combined grade of these four rare earths that are used to make magnets for electric vehicles and wind turbines is 3.49%, which is higher than the total rare earth grades in most other rare earth deposits.
SMM is projected to mine about 30,000 tons of ore per year, or about 120 tons per day, to produce 2,700 tons of REOs per year. The Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO) grade in the mine is 14.4%; however, there will be dilution and the recovered grade will be about 9%.
The planned production volume of 2,700 tons per year will include 480 tons of Nd, 138 tons of Pr, 26 tons of Dy and 5 tons of Tb. SMM could double this volume of production by working two shifts. With the Resource of 86,900 tons and the planned production rate of 2,700 tons of REOs per year, SMM will have a life of about 30 years.
Mr Blench said SMM is registered with and regulated by the National Nuclear Regulator (NNR). SMM is authorised to mine, process, transport, and store Naturally Occurring Radioactive Materials (NORM). “SMM is authorised to mine the monazite, separate the rare earths from the thorium, sell the rare earths and store the thorium at SKK. SMM may also buy monazite concentrate from mineral sands producers, process this concentrate at SKK and store the thorium from this concentrate at SKK.”
“SMM may also sell the thorium, as there are new markets for thorium as a nuclear fuel and as a source of medical isotopes.”