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Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map

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Malawi, known as the “Warm heart of Africa” is making progress in becoming an African mining destination. Image credit: Graig Manners from Unsplash

Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map

Malawi is endowed with numerous important mineral deposits and several early-stage projects have drawn the attention of major global mining companies. WhyAfrica will visit Malawi next month on Leg 1 of our 2023 WhyAfrica Road Trip to find out how far the country has come in terms of positioning itself as a significant African mining destination.      

Complied by Leon Louw, owner of WhyAfrica and editor of the WhyAfrica magazine  

One of the projects in the landlocked country of Malawi that has caught the attention of global mining majors is Australian listed Sovereign Metal’s Kasiya Rutile-Graphite project, about 75km from Malawi’s capital city of Lilongwe.

Sovereign announced yesterday that global mining giant Rio Tinto has made a USD40.4-million investment to become a 15% strategic shareholder in Sovereign.

According to Sovereign’s Chairman Ben Stoikovich, the investment proceeds will be used to advance Sovereign’s Kasiya Rutile-Graphite project in Malawi.

Stoikovich says that under the Investment Agreement, Rio Tinto will provide assistance and advice on technical and marketing aspects of Kasiya, including with respect to Sovereign’s graphite co-product, with a primary focus on spherical purified graphite for the lithium-ion battery anode market.

A landmark agreement with Rio Tinto (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

“This landmark agreement with Rio Tinto, one of the world’s largest and most accomplished global mining companies, is confirmation of Kasiya’s place as one of the most significant critical mineral discoveries in recent times.

“The experience and expertise that Rio Tinto brings will truly set Kasiya apart as a potentially globally significant supply of two critical minerals and take us all a step closer to supply chain decarbonisation and achieving net-zero.

“Furthermore, this is yet another step towards unlocking significant benefits from development of the Kasiya project for Malawi,” says Stoikovich.

Stoikovich adds that the company will use the proceeds from Rio Tinto’s strategic investment to fund the advancement of Kasiya, including progressing a Definitive Feasibility Study (DFS) focused on the development of a worldclass, low-CO2-footprint mine capable of supplying to the titanium pigment, titanium metal and lithiumion battery industries.

According to a statement by Sovereign, Kasiya is the largest natural rutile deposit and one of the largest flake graphite deposits in the world.

Sovereign is aiming to develop a sustainable operation to supply highly soughtafter natural rutile and graphite to global markets.

An Expanded Scoping Study (ESS) released in June 2022 by the company confirmed Kasiya as potentially one of the world’s largest and lowest cost producers of natural rutile and natural graphite with a global warming potential substantially lower than other existing and planned operations.

Sovereign is in the advanced stages of a Pre-feasibility Study (PFS) for Kasiya which will build on the on the ESS. The company expects to announce the outcomes of the PFS in the coming months.

Malawi is regarded by current investors in the country as a stable and transparent jurisdiction with existing infrastructure in terms of grid power, road networks and an established labour pool. Moreover, the  Nacala Logistics Corridor passes through Malawi to the Indian Ocean (Nacala Port in Mozambique) providing a low cost transportation solution.

More projects of interest on the WhyAfrica Road Trip (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

In addition to Sovereigns project, Canadian dual listed mineral exploration and development company Mkango Resources is developing several exiting projects in Malawi, the most important of which is a rare earth deposit at Songwe Hill, located in south-eastern Malawi, between Lake Chilwa and the Mulanje Massif, approximately 70km from the former capital Zomba and approximately 90km from the commercial centre of Blantyre.

After three phases of exploration drilling in 2011, 2012 and 2018, Mkango completed a NI43-101 compliant technical report and upgraded Mineral Resource estimate for the Songwe Hill Project in January 2019, and the Definitive Feasibility Study was completed in July 2022.

Paved roads run from the urban centres to within 12km of Songwe Hill. Secondary gravel and dirt roads provide vehicle access to the exploration camp, with recently upgraded bridges capable of taking 20-tonne trucks.

More Rare Earth deposits (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

ASX listed Lindian Resources is well-advanced with the development of the Kangankunde Rare Earths Project, which Lindian refers to as “the King”.

Kangankunde is emerging as a Rare Earths project with a number of unique characteristics: very high grade and broad intercepts of non-radioactive mineralisation intersected through recent drilling; a high percentage of critical metal elements neodymium-praseodymium (NdPr), which are central to the world’s clean energy transition, favourable ESG credentials and fully permitted for construction.

Lindian has multiple near-term value drivers including the publishing if its maiden Mineral Resource Estimate in the coming weeks which will confirm Kangankunde’s grade and scale, completion of metallurgical test work which will confirm recoveries, and commencement of the Stage 1 processing plant that will the project in production in the near-term.

The Phase 1 drill program at Kangankunde commenced on October 31, 2022 and to-date, 82 reverse circulation (RC) holes have been drilled for 12,670 metres.

Assays have been returned for 78 drill holes, with REE mineralisation intersected at depths of up to 317.2m, while the latest results returned the highest-grade rare earths assays to-date.

The Nacala Logistics Corridor (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

The Nacala Logistics Corridor (NLC) is a recently refurbished 912km rail line for the purpose of transporting coal from mines in western Mozambique east to the port of Nacala via Malawi.

For Malawi, the NLC provides the shortest and most direct access to the sea and the global commodity markets. The Corridor stretches from Moatize, Mozambique and Chipata, Zambia and passes through Lilongwe in Malawi to the Port of Nacala on the Indian Ocean. The railway in Malawi is operated by CEAR (Central East African Railways) which is controlled by Vale and Mitsui.

The NLC connects Tete to Nacala, but importantly for the mines in Malawi, the railway travels through Malawi, and includes an operating rail line north to Lilongwe, passing within 25km of Sovereign Metal’s licence areas. Access to the existing NLC has the significant advantage of reducing upfront capital cost for project development.

Nacala Port in Mozambique (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

The deep-water Port of Nacala is at the Eastern end of the NLC and is the deepest port in Southern Africa. The port’s infrastructure extends for approximately 600 hectares at the bay of Nacala, Nacala-a-Velha district, northern Mozambique. With deep waters and multiuse standard, it allows the access of several companies to its infrastructure. It was designed to receive and export about 18 million tons of coal, in addition to general cargo and especially daily passenger transportation.



WhyAfrica gears up for 2023 WhyAfrica Road Trip (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

The first leg of WhyAfrica’s 2023 Road trip kicks off next week. This year the Road trip will take us through the Caprivi Strip in Namibia, western Zambia, the Moxico province of Angola, the Copperbelt in Zambia, south-eastern Zambia, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa. We expect to visit close to 20 project sites.

Many surprises in store (Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map)

We have several surprises up our sleeve, and if you are not a WhyAfrica member yet, make sure you join the prestigious WhyAfrica community to make the most of our business intelligence and on-the-ground-information, content, and reports. To become a WhyAfrica member, click here:   https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/

During our trip we’ll focus on the mining and exploration of critical minerals and other materials, the importance of gold and diamonds in Southern Africa, agriculture, and farming (including aquaculture and fishing), energy (including oil, gas, and renewables), water management, supporting infrastructure, environmental management/ conservation, and Environmental Social Governance (ESG) and climate change issues.

As we gear up to take off towards the end of this month to go where few have gone before, we’re continuously reminded of the incredible potential of Africa and her people. At the same time, we’re aware that the exploration and development of Africa’s natural resources should not happen at the expense of the environment and Africa’s vulnerable communities.

With this in mind, we hope to bring you the best that this part of Africa has to offer in terms of stories, ideas, on the ground, grassroots business intelligence and opportunities. We’re always looking for solutions and not problems but are aware of the many challenges facing companies operating and investing in Africa.

If you are looking for solutions and have a passion for Africa, become a WhyAfrica member or follow WhyAfrica/RES on our social media pages and online platforms during Leg 1 of our 2023 Road Trip through Angola, Zambia, Malawi and parts of Namibia and South Africa.  Together, WhyAfrica takes our members, sponsors and partners places they’ve never been. When it comes to the sustainable utilisation of natural resources in Africa, we cover all angles.

This trip would not be possible without the support and knowledge of RES, a homegrown African company that truly goes places nobody has gone before.

Companies and individuals still have time to jump on board and become bronze sponsors of the WhyAfrica Road Trip or partner with WhyAfrica for the rest of 2023. We will only close our sponsorship opportunities this Friday, so if you’re interested give us a call. Also remember that as a WhyAfrica member you’ll get regular updates during the trip and a full and in-depth report about opportunities, challenges and on the ground business intelligence after the trip. Click here to become a member  https://www.whyafrica.co.za/product/membership/

If you’re not a WhyAfrica member yet, you can still follow our progress during the trip on our online platform (www.whyafrica.co.za), and on Linkedin, Twitter, Facebook, Instagram and YouTube. Subscribe to WhyAfrica’s YouTube channel and get glimpses of our adventure as we make our way through Namibia, Zambia, Angola, Malawi, Botswana and South Africa.

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Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map


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Rio Tinto deal puts Malawi on the mining map


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AgricultureEnvironmental Management & Climate ChangeEnergyESGInfrastructureMiningPolitical EconomyTourism and ConservationWater Management