Mkango advances to phase II of neodymium alloy project

Mkango Resources has commenced Phase II of its research and development program with Metalysis and has raised £500,000.

  • Successful Phase I production of a neodymium-iron-boron (NdFeB) alloy powder has been achieved using Metalysis’ solid-state technology
  • NdFeB alloys are used to make permanent magnets, critical components of most electric vehicles, direct drive wind turbines and many other high growth applications
  • Phase I results support the commencement of a Phase II R&D program with Metalysis, and a binding joint venture principles and exclusivity agreement for advanced alloys using neodymium or praseodymium with other elements for magnet manufacturing has been signed
  • Neodymium and other rare earths used in permanent magnets are also key components of Mkango’s advanced stage rare earths project in Malawi, so the collaboration with Metalysis significantly enhances the strategic value of the project
  • Neodymium oxide prices have approximately doubled since the start of the year, and the supply – demand outlook for rare earths used in permanent magnets is very positive.

Will Dawes, Chief Executive of Mkango: “Mkango is now uniquely positioned in the rare earths sector and these very promising developments provide a strong platform for moving into Phase II R&D. Our collaboration with Metalysis enhances our ability to meet supply chain requirements for accelerating growth in the electric vehicle market, amongst other applications.

“This program is underpinned by our advanced stage Songwe Hill rare earths project in Malawi, where Mkango is spearheading the sustainable development of rare earths for the emerging, global low carbon economy.”

Dion Vaughan, Chief Executive of Metalysis: “We are very pleased to commence Phase II of our R&D programme with Mkango. Producing a neodymium-iron-boron alloy illustrates the wide range of advanced alloys Metalysis’ process can produce. We look forward to collaborating with Mkango over the coming months on this exciting project.”

Proof of concept tests at R&D scale have successfully demonstrated that a NdFeB alloy can be generated using Metalysis’ process from a mixed feedstock containing oxides of neodymium, iron and boron.

Metalysis can produce metal alloys directly from oxide feedstock without melting, reducing processing steps and enabling optimised control of metal powder characteristics. Metalysis’ powders have proven particularly well suited to 3D printing; one of a number of attributes to be evaluated in the future.

The Phase II, 12-month work program includes product quality optimisation, test work scale-up, and further analyses of the alloy to determine characteristics such as its morphology, chemical composition, and physical and magnetic properties. Phase II will also incorporate customer appraisal of the product and further investigation of opportunities in relation to 3D printing of magnets.

Mkango and Metalysis have signed a joint venture principles and exclusivity agreement for advanced alloys using neodymium or praseodymium with other elements for magnet development. This includes joint venture principles for commercialising intellectual property rights and/or a licence agreement with Metalysis for the production of neodymium or praseodymium alloy powders. Under these principles, Mkango will hold an 85% interest in the joint venture and Metalysis would receive a 15% carried interest.

Mkango has entered into an agreement with Talaxis, a wholly owned subsidiary of Noble Group, whereby Talaxis will invest £500,000 in Mkango.

The uses of proceeds from the placing will be to commence Phase 2 R&D with Metalysis, in addition to continued optimisation of the project, ongoing evaluation of additional opportunities and other expenditures.

Metalysis owns a solid-state technology to produce valuable periodic table metal and alloy powders. Invented at the University of Cambridge, UK, the technology provides a more environmentally friendly, efficient process compared to traditional metal production methods.

With commercial partners in industry and academia, Metalysis uses its process to produce powders primarily used in 3D printing, aerospace and automotive advanced manufacturing applications.

Mkango’s primary business is the exploration for rare earth elements and associated minerals in the Republic of Malawi, a country whose hospitable people have earned it a reputation as “the warm heart of Africa.” Mkango holds, through its wholly owned subsidiary Lancaster Exploration, a 100% interest in two exclusive prospecting licenses in southern Malawi, the Phalombe licence and the Thambani licence.

The main exploration target in the Phalombe licence is the Songwe Hill rare earths’ deposit, which features carbonatite hosted rare earth mineralisation and was subject to previous exploration in the late 1980s. Mkango completed an updated PFS for the project in November 2015. Mkango’s strategy for Songwe is to further optimise the project with a view to maximising efficiency and reducing costs, thereby providing a strong platform for entering into partnerships, marketing and offtake arrangements. In December 2016, Mkango entered into an agreement with Noble Resources to collaborate in the rare earths sector.

The main exploration targets in the Thambani licence are uranium, niobium, tantalum and zircon.