It's old, does not look like much and is located in a dry part of West-South Africa on the Western Cape.
But the Steenkampskraal mine may soon become a hot mining area thanks to some of the world's highest-grade rare earth deposits.
"Steenkampskraal will be a very important source of rare earth metals for the global industry," said Trevor Blench, chairman of Steenkampskraal Holdings Limited, during a recent tour] Trevor Blench, chairman of Steenkampskraal (SKK) Holdings, shows where the monazit Reef (darker rock) containing the rare earth minerals is located underground in the SKK Rare Earth Mine on July 29, 201
350 kilometers north of Cape Town was used in the 1950s and 60s to produce thorium, a component of nuclear fuel.
However, it has now been found to also contain monazite ore, which contains extremely high quality rare earth minerals such as neodymium and praseodymium – elements that are critical to the industry.
Manufacture uses color goggles, industrial magnets, strong aircraft engine alloys, military hardware, hybrid cars, consumer electronics, medical devices and even lighters.
In 2018, China produces the largest share of so-called "technology minerals" with a domestic production of 120,000 tons.
That's far more than the US, which relies on China for about 80 percent of its rare earth imports.
Beijing is now threatening to disrupt supply as trade breaks increase, prompting US President Donald Trump on July 22 to order the Pentagon to find other sources for the crucial elements.
Rare earth elements represent a group of 17 minerals that are unique because of their magnetic, catalytic and electrochemical properties.
For the first time since 1985, China became a net importer of some rare earths for industrial needs last year, while the government investigated illegal exploration and production.
Worldwide sales of electric cars requiring minerals increased by 68 percent to 5.12 million in 2018, with China selling over one million vehicles. According to the International Energy Agency.
"China can export less and less to the rest of the world because of its own needs," Blench said.
The Steenkampskraal Mine could only be the answer to growth demand, he suggested.
& # 39; abundance of rocks & # 39;
"About 14 percent of this rock is rare earth. This is an extraordinarily high salary and we do not know anything like that on the planet, "Blench said with a small but heavy reddish brown rock.
Worldwide, many mines have about six percent or less of rare earths in their ore.
There are currently no mines for rare earth elements in South Africa, but the government confirms the presence of untapped technology minerals.
"South Africa is on par with any other country that would mine such a mine Mineralist Deshenthree Chetty of Mintek, a state minerals and metallurgy research department, said it was able to supply rare earth elements to meet this growing demand.
to deliver, and we are able to do so, as long as these markets are favorable. "
" We have a wealth of rocks where rare earth elements are found, "said Mosa Mabuza, CEO of the Council for GeoScience, who measured mineral deposits. According to AFP
Steenkampskraal has secured all licenses necessary for the start of mining are. An initial production of 2,700 tons per year is planned as soon as a $ 50 million (45 million euro) financing has been secured. Further expansion plans.
But the path to global success could be rocky for the South Africans warned Diego Oliva-Velez, a commodities analyst at Fitch Solutions in London.
The rare earth sector in South Africa is largely undeveloped and could easily fall behind the US, Australia, India, Russia and Vietnam. "Significantly larger proven rare earth reserves," he said.
Steenkampskraal's reserves are also mostly so-called "light rare earths," which occur comparatively frequently globally, "Oliva-Velez said.
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