NAIROBI (Reuters) - Canadian-based minerals and metals firm Pacific Wildcat Resources said further drilling at its Kenyan mining project near Mombasa had established larger reserves of niobium and rare earth than earlier projected.
“As can be seen from the cross sections we have now shown the high grade niobium mineralisation extends at depths substantially deeper than the initial inferred niobium resource which is limited to a depth of 30 metres,” Pacific Wildcat President Darren Townsend said in a statement late on Thursday.
Townsend said the drilling had also established greater depths of potential rare earth reserves at the Mrima Hill site, adding the firm had started another round of drilling aimed exploring the full potential of rare earth and niobium reserves.
“This drilling has the objective of both extending the current inferred niobium resource and to provide a maiden rare earth resource in the third quarter of 2012,” the company said.
Niobium is mixed with steel to create a strong alloy used in the construction of pipes for water and sewage systems and components used in various types of vehicles.
Alloys from niobium and steel are also used in the creation of welding rods and several stainless steel products used in homes. Niobium has also become popular in the production of optical lenses.
Rare earths are crucial in making high-tech electronics products such as highly specialised miniature nuclear batteries, laser repeaters, super conductors and miniature magnets.
An acute global shortage has triggered a spike in prices and in exploration in recent years.
China, which accounts for an estimated 97 percent of global rare earth supplies, has been tightening trade in the strategic metals, sparking an explosion in prices.
Japan, which accounts for a third of global demand, has been stung badly, and has been looking to diversify its supply sources, particularly of heavy rare earths such as dysprosium used in magnets.