China asked to help in African min­ing

Huge de­posits dis­cov­ered of rare earths, pre­cious met­als, di­a­monds

China Daily (Hong Kong) - - BUSINESS COMPANIES - By DU JUAN du­juan@chi­nadaily.com.cn

The ex­plo­ration rights owner of newly found world­class di­a­mond, rare earth and strate­gic min­er­als de­posits in the South­west­ern African na­tion of Namibia is seek­ing sup­port from China and part­ner­ship with Chi­nese com­pa­nies for co­op­er­a­tive de­vel­op­ment of the re­sources.

Malaysian busi­ness­man Subra­ma­niam Ragu­bathi, owner of Nam­bib Re­sources Pty Ltd, a di­a­mond and min­er­als ex­plo­ration com­pany reg­is­tered in Namibia, dis­cov­ered the huge di­a­mond and min­eral re­sources.

Con­sid­er­ing China’s strong pres­ence in Africa and its ex­per­tise in min­ing and re­fin­ing of rare-earth met­als, Ragu­bathi said he be­lieves a part­ner­ship with China for the ex­plo­ration of re­sources on the leased ar­eas will be mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial.

The leases along the Skele­ton Coast cover about 2,300 square kilo­me­ters.

The area is es­ti­mated to have ap­prox­i­mately 700 to 800 mil­lion met­ric tons of rare- earth ore, which can sup­ply the global de­mand of 130,000 tons a year for at least 30 years, ac­cord­ing to Nam­bib Re­sources.

In one of the four leases, Toscanini, the com­pany has iden­ti­fied 57 mil­lion carats of di­a­monds with a gov­ern­men­tap­praised value of more than $20 bil­lion.

The com­pany also owns the min­ing li­cense of the Toscanini mine.

He told China Daily his com­pany is in talks with sev­eral Chi­nese State- owned com­pa­nies about co­op­er­a­tion but de­clined to re­lease their names.

Sources from two large State-owned re­sources com­pa­nies, Bao­tou Steel Ra­reearth Hi-tech Co, the largest rare- earth pro­ducer in the coun­try, and China Min­metals Corp, a ma­jor met­als and min­eral trader, said they are un­aware of any co­op­er­a­tion so far.

Zhang Zhong, gen­eral man­ager of Bao­tou Steel Rare- earth, said it would be good for the com­pany to in­vest in African rare- earth mines so long as the re­sources are of high qual­ity.

An anony­mous source with China Min­metals said al­though the com­pany has busi­nesses in 15 coun­tries, Namibia is not one of them.

So far, China Min­metals has cop­per, iron ore and alu­mina busi­nesses in African coun­tries in­clud­ing the Demo­cratic Repub­lic of Congo, Mau­ri­ta­nia and Ja­maica.

Mon­azite, an ore with ra­reearth ele­ments, on the Skele­ton Coast of western Namibia, was found to be of higher qual­ity than the mon­azite in many other ar­eas be­cause of its unique ge­o­log­i­cal con­di­tion, said Ragu­bathi.

Ragu­bathi feels that the sup­port of the Malaysian govern­ment and the Namib­ian govern­ment as well as the sup­port and par­tic­i­pa­tion of China is cru­cial.

“I need tech­nol­ogy, tech­ni­cal sup­port and spe­cial­ized equip­ment that China can pro­vide,” he said.

China is the largest ra­reearth user and pro­ducer in the world. It has a proven re­serve of about 18.59 mil­lion met­ric tons, ac­count­ing for about 23 per­cent of the known global re­serve and sup­ply­ing up to 95 per­cent of world de­mand.

Rare earths, a group of 17 ele­ments, are es­sen­tial in the man­u­fac­ture of an ar­ray of high-tech prod­ucts. They are get­ting in­creas­ingly im­por­tant in elec­tronic de­vices used in the de­fense, al­ter­na­tive en­ergy and com­mu­ni­ca­tions in­dus­tries.

At present, the United States and Ja­pan are the two top im­porters of China’s rare-earth re­sources. The lat­ter’s im­ports of the re­sources have a de­pen­dency on China’s sup­ply of more than 60 per­cent.

In ad­di­tion to the strate­gic re­source, Ragu­bathi said there are po­ten­tially big re­serves of gold, plat­inum and ura­nium in the four leases, which still re­quire fur­ther ge­o­log­i­cal study.

They have un­cov­ered and mined thou­sands of carats of di­a­monds as well as iden­ti­fied about 57 mil­lion carats of di­a­monds in less than 10 per­cent of the 85,000 hectares cov­ered by just one of the four leases, Toscanini.

“The de­posit of di­a­monds within the Toscanini lease is con­sid­ered to be one of the big­gest de­posits of di­a­monds in his­tory, if not the big­gest. It is an al­lu­vial de­posit with 95 to 98 per­cent gem qual­ity, which places the di­a­monds among the best qual­ity in the world,” said Ragu­bathi.

China has been the sec­ond­largest di­a­mond buyer in the world af­ter the US since 2009.

Peo­ple in China have a grow­ing en­thu­si­asm for di­a­monds when get­ting mar­ried as Western tra­di­tions in­crease in pop­u­lar­ity and be­come more widely ac­cepted.

The Shang­hai Di­a­mond Ex­change be­came the fourth- largest di­a­mond ex­change in the world in 2011 with a to­tal trad­ing value of $ 4.7 bil­lion.

KUANG LINHUA / CHINA DAILY

Subra­ma­niam Ragu­bathi, owner of Nam­bib Re­sources Pty Ltd, said he be­lieves a part­ner­ship with China for the ex­plo­ration of re­sources on the leased ar­eas will be mu­tu­ally ben­e­fi­cial.

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