Sovereign discovers rutile in Malingunde
By Gloria Mbwana
ASX-listed resources group Sovereign Metals which is currently prospecting for flake graphite at Malingunde in Lilongwe has discovered high grade rutile at the site.
Sovereign says in a Press Release that the discovery was made out of a successful metallurgical separation of the high grade rutile (TiO2) from within the soft, saprolite-hosted graphite deposit at Malingunde.
Importantly, clean rutile concentrates are produced (with no cross-contamination with graphite) via a simple process flow sheet using traditional flotation for graphite and typical mineral sands separation,
says MD for Sovereign Metals Julian Stephens.
He explains that the metallurgical test work by the company, which is focused on future low-cost production of high quality graphite concentrates at Malingunde, has highlighted the potential to produce rutile as a valuable co-product from the graphite tailings.
The metallurgical test work recovered rutile and leucoxene which are high-value, premium natural titanium products normally mined from mineral sands deposits commonly consumed in the pigment industry (paint, paper, cosmetics, plastics).
Rutile is a highly sought after, high grade titanium feed source currently fetching ~US$900 – $1,050/tonne and projected to reach long term pricing of US$1,250/tonne (FOB) by 2019.
The Company controls a very large ground position in central Malawi, providing significant potential for additional graphite-rutile/leucoxene discoveries.
Sovereign is focused on developing the world-class, low-cost graphite operation at Malingunde.
The discovery of rutile-leucoxene as a potential co-product, produced from the graphite tailings via a simple process flow sheet provides the potential for additional revenue streams and enhanced project value.
The Company intends to undertake further studies to advance work on this discovery, without compromising the focus upon the development of graphite operations at Malingunde.
Meanwhile, Sovereign is undertaking a drilling program to extract over 100 tonnes of ore to be used for a pilot processing program and production of bulk graphite concentrates from Malingunde Saprolite.
Acceleration of the pilot program and the production of bulk concentrates have been driven by significant demand from potential off take partners, as they seek greater quantities of product for continuation and up scaling of testing and qualification
The Company is currently completing the final stages of its Pre-feasibility Study (“PFS”) for the Malingunde project with results expected in the coming weeks.
The initial pilot plant program will process over 40 tonnes of ore to produce approximately 3.5 tonnes of graphite concentrates for assessment by various potential off takes partners.
Sovereign is targeting sales of premium flake graphite concentrates into existing traditional markets (refractory’s, foundries etc.) as well as to emerging markets (Li-ion batteries).
Stephens explains that the Company is focused on developing relationships with high-quality off take partners with established industry sand market presence and to date has engaged with a diverse range of credible off-take parties across a number of industrial sectors and global locations.
He says the pilot plant program is an early Definitive Feasibility Study (“DFS”) activity which will have the added benefit of providing confidence and de-risking the process flow sheet.
The bulk drilling program is being undertaken by a 0.65m diameter auger drill-bit, and a total of nine holes are planned to maximum depths of 25m in order to gather over 100 tonnes of representative soft saprolite graphite ore from Malingunde.
Initially, the Company plans to ship over 40 tonnes of the material to SGS Lakefield in Canada for production of high-quality flake graphite concentrates at a pilot plant scale.
The pilot plant program will be based on Malingunde’s simple and robust process flow sheet that requires no primary crush or grind and no chemical or heat purification to produce high-quality graphite concentrates,
says Stephens, adding;
Our test-work will also serve to further validate the flow sheet for detailed plant design in the upcoming DFS.
The Malingundes Project’s bias to large, jumbo and super-jumbo flake concentrates has resulted in the company receiving significant interest from potential purchasers of these high-value graphite products.
Sovereign is pursuing credible sales agreements with these respected and credible organizations to support the project’s development.
This piece was initially published in Malawi’s Mining & Trade Review Issue Number 66 (October 2018).