The U.S Department of Defence has announced that it is looking to replace China as America’s biggest supplier of the scarce but much-needed minerals as its trade war with China heats up.
They are used for the development of technology mostly used in advanced military equipment.
The U.S also identified Burundian miner Rainbow Rare Earths as a possible alternative supplier, but nothing has emerged out of that country’s capital of Bujumbura since America first mooted shifting its rare earth attention from Asia to Africa.
Why is America dying to get its hands on these minerals?
Allanite is usually black in colour but can be brown to brownish-violet if translucent. It comes packed with rare earth minerals. Rare earth elements include many unusual and valuable metals.
Up to 20% of allanite's weight could be composed of these rare earth elements, making allanite a potentially valuable ore.
Allanite is found as an accessory mineral in several igneous rocks such as granite, Syenite, Diorite and their Pegmatite and in a few metamorphic rocks as small embedded grains.
Where is it mined in Malawi?
In Malawi, aeschynite and allanite are found in Phalombe, to the east of Blantyre near its border with Mozambique.
Mineral exploration company Mkango Resources said it is still busy with “a bankable feasibility study” at the Songwe Hill site just north of the environmentally sensitive Mulanje Mountain Forest Reserve. The project has received the approval of mines and energy minister, Binton Kutsaira, FTW online reported.
Depending on the speed with which the mining of rare earth minerals in Malawi proceeds, Mkango could become one of the preferred suppliers of the two minerals to the US before the end of the year.
According to online newspaper Nyasa Times, the minister recently visited the site and expressed his happiness with the “level of transparency by Mkango in its operations.”
Uneatherning Malawi’s mineral sector
Apart from aeschynite and allanite, Malawi is also a small producer of uranium, gemstones, and coal and construction materials. The government is targeting to grow mining industry revenue to 20% of GDP by 2020.
The country boasts a reserve of 2.5 million metric tons of rare earths with 4.2% rare earths content and substantial inferred resources. Mineral resources are subdivided in order of increasing geological confidence, into inferred, indicated and measured categories. An Indicated Mineral resource has a higher level of confidence than an inferred mineral resource but has a lower level of confidence than a measured mineral resource.
According to the Malawi Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (MEITI) 2014/15 report, total revenue for the extractive sector was MWK 5,935 million (equivalent to USD 13.6 million) of which 49% came from forestry, 40% from solid minerals, and 11% from oil and gas. These revenues were mainly collected through royalty tax, resource rent tax and corporate income tax and log sales.