South Africa

Phalaborwa Project

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Mine TypeTailings
StagePreliminary Economic Assessment
  • REE
Mining Method
  • Hydraulic mining
Production Start... Lock
Mine Life14.2 years (as of Jan 1, 2022)
ShapshotThe Phalaborwa Project rare earths resource is contained in two phosphogypsum stacks which are the waste from historic phosphoric acid production on the site, which ceased in 2014.

Rainbow is well progressed on a number of workstreams required to deliver the Phalaborwa project’s DFS. METC Engineering has commenced work to fully define the engineering scope required for the project and will play a central role in coordinating the different operational aspects of the DFS. Paragon Tailings has been engaged to advise on the work around reclamation of the gypsum stacks in accordance with strict safety and environmental standards, and will be assisted by the US-based global gypsum experts Ardaman and Associates, Inc., a Tetra Tech company (“Ardaman”). Ardaman are conducting tests and the design work for the new stacks upon which the benign gypsum will be deposited.


Bosveld Phosphates (Pty) Ltd. 30 % Indirect
Rainbow Rare Earths Ltd. 70 % Indirect
The amended agreement, signed on 18 January 2022, confirms Rainbow's shareholding in the Joint Venture the Phalaborwa at 70%, with the remaining 30% held by Bosveld.

TechMet Option

TechMet Limited has been granted an option to invest US$50 million as part of the equity funding component for the Phalaborwa capital cost, which will see TechMet take a direct ownership stake at project level. The TechMet stake will be dependent on the net present value set out in the definitive feasibility study for the project. Based on the agreed formula, the equity stake will be within a range of 15-33%, underpinning a valuation of the project equity at between US$151.5 million and US$333.3 million.



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Deposit type

  • Tailings


The 2-billion-year-old (Archean) Phalaborwa Carbonatite Complex contains apatite-bearing zones, the primary source of South African phosphate production. Phalaborwa carbonatite contains two types of apatite ores: foskorite and pyroxenite.

The manufacture of phosphoric acid from phosphate concentrate produced a phosphogypsum waste which has been deposited on 2 large stacks. The REE in the phosphate ore reports primarily to the phosphate concentrate delivered to the PA plants.

The two stacks are situated to the West of the Phalaborwa mining complex. The residue stacks were deposited on a relatively flat base, consisting of soil and gravel, which was intersected in some of the drill holes.

Stack A, the largest of the 2 stacks, with an approximate basal dimensions of 1,200 m x 700 m, has a higher surface elevation and steeper slopes. An acidic water pond (with a depth of c.4 m at its deepest central part) covers most of the top centre of the stack. Some gypsum has been mined for agriculture purposes has been removed from the NE corner of stack A.

Stack B, with an approximate basal surface of 800 m x 650 m, is lower and has gentler slopes than stack A. The acid pond on top is smaller, but with a depth virtually the same as for stack A. Some gypsum quarrying and mining has taken place in the SE and SW corners of stack B.

In both stacks, the material is made of white, fine-grained, friable phosphogypsum which is indurated/cemented at surface. The gypsum residues have been deposited as a thinly bedded layered sediment pack; however, various other facies have also been observed at surface depth. The gypsum takes a grey colouration at surface (caused by magnetite dust from the nearby dump used to feed to the magnetite plant) but becomes white underneath.

Around and probably in the floor of the acid water ponds, the surface material is made of a hard/cemented gypsum crust 5 to 10 cm thick.

Auger and open-hole drilling carried out by RRE in 2020 and 2022 has showed that the phosphogypsum material is very uniform in colour and grain size from surface to the bottom of the stacks. Moisture content increases with depth ranging from relatively dry to totally sloppy to a point that samples cannot be recovered using conventional drilling methods. The homogeneity of the stacks was confirmed by the relative uniformity of the REE grades, laterally and at depth.

The host apatite ore that originally contained the REE’s has a favourable distribution of individual elements dominated by Neodymium (Nd), Praseodymium (Pr) and Dysprosium (Dy). The REE’s were upgraded by the Foskor concentration process and then again during the phosphoric acid production process where REE reported to the phosphogypsum residue deposited on the stacks.



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Mining Methods


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Crushers and Mills

Milling equipment has not been reported.



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CommodityUnitsAvg. AnnualLOM
REE t 1,84826,208
All production numbers are expressed as oxide.

Operational metrics

Annual ore mining rate 000
Annual processing capacity 00
* According to 2022 study.

Production Costs

Cash costs (sold) Total Rare Earth Oxides USD 000
Assumed price Dysprosium USD 000
Assumed price Terbium USD 0000
Assumed price Praseodymium USD 0000
Assumed price Neodymium USD 000
Assumed price Total Rare Earth Oxides USD 00000
* According to 2022 study / presentation.

Operating Costs

G&A ($/t milled) USD 0.67 *  
Total operating costs ($/t milled) USD  ....  Subscribe
* According to 2022 study.

Project Costs

MetricsUnitsLOM Total
Total CapEx $M USD  ......  Subscribe
Gross revenue (LOM) $M USD  ......  Subscribe
Operating margin, %  ......  Subscribe
After-tax NPV @ 10% $M USD  ......  Subscribe
After-tax IRR, %  ......  Subscribe
After-tax payback period, years  ......  Subscribe

Heavy Mobile Equipment


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Mine Management

Source Source
Job TitleNameProfileRef. Date
....................... Subscription required ....................... Subscription required Subscription required Dec 16, 2023
....................... Subscription required ....................... Subscription required Subscription required Dec 16, 2023

Subscription required Subscription required 2022

Aerial view:


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