Africa is blessed with abundant natural resources, beneath and above the earth surface.   From South to North and from East to West, each region presents unique deposit of minerals of the finest quality. According to a Wikipedia report, Africa boasts of the world’s largest mineral industry. The continent is also the second-largest continent, with 11.73 million miles of land, which implies large quantities of resources. For many African countries, mineral exploration and production constitute significant parts of their economies and remain keys to economic growth.

From the ashes of the continent’s despair and the craggy surfaces, comes the precious metal – Rare Earth Mineral, used for the production of everyday devices, such as computer memory, DVDs, rechargeable batteries, cell phones, catalytic converters, magnets, fluorescent lighting and much more.   Recent findings show that Australia, Africa and Canada are set to rival China in the global supply of Rare Earth Minerals. Africa is also said to hold half of the world’s reserve for carbonatites, a type of rock formation seen as a prime hunting ground for rare earth. 

The name Gakara may not sound a note of familiarity to the ordinary mind, or arouse a deep interest, except when the consideration of the rich prospect which it possesses and the gains which it promises comes into play. However, to the keen business mind aware of the enormous potential embedded within the soil or ‘earth’ as it is referred to, of this community, the name is one to appreciate and possibly stake an endeavour within its territory.

Located in Burundi, Gakara is roughly 20km south-southeast of Bujumbura, covering a combined area of about 39km square. This place is renowned today and known as one of the world’s richest rare earth deposits. It holds one of the most intriguing mining projects to come out of Africa in recent times.

Rare earth elements are a group of 17 elements that are formed under the earth’s surface, and they are usually difficult to find and extract. These elements are categorised as a set of fifteen lanthanides on the periodic table plus scandium and yttrium. What makes them unique is that they have incomparable magnetic, heat-resistant and phosphorescent properties which are not possessed by any other element; thus, making them crucial to the technology and defence industries. Put, in other words, they are often indispensable and non-substitutable materials in the production of certain things without which the world as it is today may not be. Electric cars, iPhones, military jet engines, batteries, missiles, and satellites all require rare-earth elements to function.

The use of rare-earth metals is something that is the coveted world over in high-tech spaces even though they are used in trace amounts as their qualities stand them out as vital and essential elements in the production a lot of items which mainly require electricity – Batteries, Car engines, LCD TV displays. One feature which stands these unique elements is their ability to interact with other elements to form materials with properties that neither element could offer on its own. For example, when combined with iron and boron, the rare-earth neodymium helps create one of the strongest magnets on the market, which is useful in the production and sustenance of iPhones and computer hard drives.

The abundance of these elements in the earth’s crust makes it a prospect to be considered; however, the challenge rests in mining it as they are widely dispersed. As a result, it is rare to find a substantial quantity of the elements clumped together in an extractable way. In Gakara, the Rare Earth Project, spearheaded by Rainbow Rare Earths company, is one of the world’s richest rare earth deposits with an in-situ grade in the range of 47-67% Total Rare Earth Oxide (TREO).

Listed on its site, The Rainbow Rare Earths company is a mining company focused on the production from, and expansion of, the high-grade Gakara Rare Earth Project in Burundi, East Africa. The Gakara operation, as it is also termed, is 90% owned by Rainbow Rare Earths and 10% by the Republic of Burundi. The company was granted a mining licence in March 2015, valid for 25 years and renewable after that.

To sum up the potential of the Gakara Project, the website mining indaba listed it as one of Africa’s biggest mining prospects in recent times, and the following report – summarising its potential and investment opportunities – supplemented its mention:

“With battery and electric vehicle technology quickly becoming the global standard for transportation, Africa’s rare earth metals are in hot demand. Projects like the Gakara mine are becoming star attractions for putting mineral producing countries on the map.

Gakara is one of the world’s richest rare earth deposits. According to research from operator Rainbow Rare Earths, alongside MSA Group, the map’s exploration potential is up to 80,000 tons of mineralised material with gradings between 47-67% REO. That’s many times higher than industry norms.

What’s more, Gakara, which has been producing for just over two years, has been relatively cheap for high ROI. Total capex at the site is estimated at around $10m. Given the demand for rare earth metals for magnets, EV components, smartphones, and more, it’s a highly lucrative development – and one that highlights why investors find Africa profitable…”

Previously, rare earth metals, as precious as they are, were known in commercial quantities only to China, which arguably supplies most of the world’s quota of these elements. Today, the mining project in Burundi puts Africa on the map as a potential major player in the rare earth industry. The large deposits in Gakara may prove to be the starting point to more discoveries. A 2019 report on theafricareport.com reflecting an interview with Martin Eales – the CEO of Rainbow, notes that:

Gakara, originally discovered by a Belgian company in the 1930s, is Africa’s only working rare earth mine. Rainbow has found its small size as a company, together with the high-grade earths available, to be an advantage in financing operations there. Larger-scale deposits, for example, in Tanzania, Malawi and Angola, would need hundreds of millions of pounds to be exploited.

Consequently, Gakara proves a point and provides a reason on why as an investor, one should invest in Africa as this is just one out of the many prospects on the African continent which can benefit humanity and develop a better world.

 

Written by:
Alkali Amana
(ALM Editorial Staff writer)