Malawi is set to become world’s fourth major niobium producer. The country’s Ministry of Mining principal secretary, Joseph Mkandawire, announced this follows a recommended to grant Globe Metals & Mining a licence for the Kanyika Niobium Project in Mzimba and, should it come into fruition, Malawi could become the fourth major producer of niobium after Brazil, Canada and Australia.
The Kanyika Niobium Mine will become the largest mine of value after Kayelekera Uranium Mine in Karonga that for ten years run by Paladin Africa Limited (PAL) but is now being managed by Lotus Resources Limited. Niobium is a rare shiny, white metal that is used for the production of high-temperature-resistant alloys and special stainless steels. Alloys containing niobium are used in jet engines and rockets, beams and girders for buildings and oil rigs, and oil and gas pipelines.
Globe Metals & Mining country director, Neville Huxham, also confirmed receiving formal communication from the Ministry of Mining after nine years of negotiations and waiting. Huxham said Globe Metals & Mining–an Australia Stock Exchange-listed company was waiting for the licence to be duly signed and authorized by the Minister of Mining after MRC recommendation.
High purity niobium
According to Huxham, the company will be producing 3 000 tonnes of niobium and 200 tonnes of tantalum annually with a workforce of about 1000 permanent and temporary staff once the mine becomes fully operational. Mining expert and former minister of Natural Resources, Energy and Mining, Grain Malunga, said granting Globe Metals & Mining was beneficial as there would be economic linkages because the company as well as residents would require a lot of services.
“We need to promote these companies to start mines and encourage them to be responsible companies that will benefit the economy and the local community equally,” Malunga is quoted as saying in the local press.
Globe Metals & Mining is expected to produce high purity niobium pentoxide and tantalum pentoxide at Kanyika in Mzimba in a project that will require a capital investment of around US $450 million with an initial mine life of over 20 years.
“The company is now in the process of finding financiers but we are waiting for the mining licence to start talking to them,” Huxham said.
For about nine years, the company has been using an exploration licence and has sent several tonnes of samples to laboratories in Australia, China and South Africa for testing. However, Huxham said once the licence is issued the company may take a minimum of three years to start actual production of niobium.