BY MTHANDAZO NYONI
AUSTRALIA-listed mining concern, Prospect Resources, has identified two significantly sized rare earth elements (REE) anomalies at its Chishanya Carbonatite Project in south-eastern Zimbabwe the Dorowa area.
The fresh discovery gives the ambitious firm, which is currently undertaking a multi-billion dollar lithium mine development near Harare, an opportunity to diversify into other high demand minerals.
But last week, the firm said its top priority would be scooping its first lithium at the Arcadia mine where it has already shipped its first samples.
The southern African country is reportedly sitting on 17 REEs, namely cerium, dysprosium, erbium, europium, gadolinium, holmium, lanthanum, lutetium, neodymium, praseodymium, promethium, samarium, scandium, terbium, thulium, ytterbium and yttrium.
REEs are now widely used in automobiles, electronic equipment, military technology and several other fields.
Although Zimbabwe has not carried out a comprehensive mineral survey, President Emmerson Mnangagwa in 2019 revealed that the country’s REEs were the second largest in the world after those in China.
Prospect said in a statement that the deposit was a known source of apatite hosted phosphate, but was previously untested for REE.
The soil sample programme identified statistically elevated values and anomalies from the four oxides, which are cerium, lanthanum, neodymium and niobium pentoxide.
Prospect managing director Sam Hosack said: “We are excited by the soil sampling results as an initial indication of Chishanya’s potential to be a rare earth element project. Based on these results, we have exercised the option on the adjoining ground to bulk up the project with a view to undertake further exploration and evaluation.”
“While our core focus is on the development of our flagship Arcadia lithium project, Chishanya offers a niche opportunity to evaluate the REE potential of this ground and to also assess other targets in the region that have never been explored for REE on this basis before,” he said.
The company said these results of moderate tenor from two well defined anomalies, in an area of limited surface outcrop, likely indicated the presence of sub-surface mineralisation and significant extra potential at depth.
“Chishanya exhibits no signs of supergene concentration within a laterite that is often caused by tropical weathering.
“The considerable lithological variation seen at Chishanya is typical of carbonatites, and this leaves considerable scope for concentration of REEs at differing levels within the project,” Prospect said.
“In short, there is considerable potential for concentration on various REE combinations, which have no current surface expression.”
Prospect said the Chishanya phosphate project was one of five known phosphate-bearing carbonatites in Zimbabwe.
The deposit has been explored by a number of companies since the 1950s including Anglo American and Rhodesia Chrome Mines Ltd.
The deposit is a series of un-exploited phosphate-bearing, apatite-magnetite lenses in carbonatite located near Birchenough Bridge, Manicaland.
The project will be located at Dorowa near Buhera.