As Uganda basks in the glory of its new oil discovery, there is a certain mineral, whose value is estimated to be more than three times the country’s black gold.
Large tonnes of aluminous clays lie in eastern Uganda, in the Busoga sub-region, which have the potential to transform the economic outlook of Uganda and the region in ways unimagined, according to a company mining there.
Kweri Ltd., a local company, has been aggressively carrying out mineral exploration activities in areas of Bugiri, Iganga and Mayuge, and is optimistic it is close to making the country’s ever biggest mineral discovery.
Making a case for rare earth minerals at the recent Comesa conference at the Commonwealth Resort Munyonyo, David Kyagulanyi, a consultant and director of Kweri Ltd, said the analysis of the geochemical results of exploration pointed to Uganda holding vast reserves of rare earth minerals.
“Uganda hosts a potentially very large tonnage of aluminous clays, which are highly enriched in rare earths such as yttrium and the rare metals scandium and gallium,” Kyagulanyi said.
“Of the clays and sediments outside of China, the aluminous clays of Makuutu are of good quality compared to other geologically similar deposits under development in other parts of the world.”
Also, he added, the clays of eastern Uganda have good basket prices and the highest ‘ore-values’ for clays outside China. With Gallium and Scandium, the aluminous clays of Makuutu have far higher basket prices than all the clays and sediments in the world; including the Chinese Ion-Adsorption Clays which do not have Scandium and Gallium, according to Kyagulanyi. They also have the highest ‘Ore-Value’ of all the clays and sediments worldwide to date, he said.
Rare earth metals are used in hybrid cars like the Toyota Prius, and in many other electronics. However, Uganda’s mineral industry remains neglected, especially now that oil has taken much of the attention.
“The aluminous clays of Makuutu and those of Grande Vallee deposit in Quebec, Canada, seem to be forming a new outside-the-box distinct category of economic mineralisation – especially thanks to Orbite Aluminae’s New game changing technology,” said Kyagulanyi in a presentation.
He added that Kweri Ltd believes that using Orbite Aluminae’s technology, the clays in Makuutu can be extracted. Kyagulanyi says there is easily a potential in ground / tonnage of three billion tonnes of clays, whose in ground value is estimated at roughly $500bn (about Shs 1,250 trillion).
“Given the world-class mineral endowment levels of the Makuutu clays, first year sales revenue could be enough to cover more than 80 per cent of the expenditures of an Orbite Technology SGA plant. This is astounding economics, to say the least,” Kyagulanyi explained.
This value strips that of oil by far. According to ministry of Energy, Uganda’s oil is valued at $150bn. Richard Kaijuka, the vice chairman of the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum said that “there is a need for investors with financial muscle to explore for minerals.”
Kyagulanyi said that about $650m was needed to develop the aluminous clays in eastern Uganda. The money is far less than the $10bn that Uganda’s oil industry requires to get to the production stage. Kyagulanyi also pointed out that the area infrastructure near Kweri’s site could not have been better for the development of the rare earths; it is less than 20km away from a railway line and a highway. Power lines are also nearby.