• Pilot phase initiated to optimise mining methods for Sovereign Metals’ $US1.6bn Kasiya rutile-graphite project
  • Land rehabilitation to determine best excavation and backfill approaches
  • Bulk samples will be collected and tested in the lab for further graphite product qualification


Special Report: Pilot phase mining and land rehabilitation programs have been initiated at Sovereign Metals’ 1.8 billion-tonne Kasiya rutile-graphite project in Malawi.

Kasiya is both the largest natural rutile deposit and the second-largest flake graphite deposit in the world.

Sovereign Metals (ASX:SVM), backed by mining major Rio Tinto (ASX:RIO) (which has a 15% stake in the developer), aims to develop a low-CO2 and sustainable operation to supply highly sought-after natural rutile and graphite to global markets.

Last year’s pre-feasibility study (PFS) has Kasiya producing at a run rate of 222,000tpa rutile and 244,000tpa natural graphite across a 25-year mine life – making it one of the biggest producers in the world.


Lift off for land rehabilitation and pilot phase

The pilot phase – a precursor to the main development — allows Sovereign to determine optimal excavation and backfill land rehabilitation approaches, and demonstrate to local communities successful rehabilitation of land for agricultural use post-mining on a 9.9-hectare site over the current ore reserve.

Both will provide critical information for the upcoming definitive feasibility study (DFS).


Pilot phase

Objectives of the pilot phase include:

  • Optimisation of mining methods by construction of a pilot-scale open pit close to the maximum depth of the current reserves at 20m;
  • Scale-up of existing in-country processing capability by installation of commercial scale spirals to produce additional bulk samples for graphite product qualification;
  • Optimising the tailings management and storage designs; and optimising land rehabilitation, soil restoration and selection of revegetation species.

SVM plans to do this by constructing a test pit 120m x 110m and excavated to a depth of 20m, allowing optimisation of hydraulic and dry mining excavation methods.

excavate ~150,000m3 of ore from the test pit over a three-month period and processed on-site and at the company’s lab in Malawi, while also providing additional bulk samples for graphite product qualification.

The excavated material will be temporarily stored in 4 stockpiles, namely all dry mining material, wet slimes (in a pond) and two sizes of sand fractions from the hydraulic mining. The material will then be placed back into the pit and all areas will be graded.

Sovereign will also construct eight small rehabilitation demonstration pits across a combined area of 100m x 130m area used for water and material storage to showcase multiple rehabilitation approaches.


Rehabilitation phase

This phase will consist of establishing a strong soils baseline, backfilling of the test pit with different soil compositions; as well as rehabilitation tests, revegetation with plants and the improvement of soil conditions post-mining.

Regular evaluation of the rehabilitation activities will assess the progress of vegetation growth and soil stabilisation and once rehabilitated, the proposed project site will be returned to farmland.

SVM MD Frank Eagar says advancing to a pilot phase is an important milestone for Kasiya.

“This covers the full spectrum of engineering and design, logistics, materials handling, water and environmental approvals, stakeholder engagement, livelihood restoration, tailings management and land rehabilitation,” Eager says.

“The successful permitting is a testament to the strong owner’s team we have assembled as we progress Kasiya into a totally new phase of development.

“The scale and results from this phase will significantly enhance our knowledge base from the previous laboratory-based studies.”



This article was developed in collaboration with Sovereign Metals, a Stockhead advertiser at the time of publishing.


This article does not constitute financial product advice. You should consider obtaining independent advice before making any financial decisions.