Africa’s first Coltan separation plant to be built in Rwanda

Frank Balestra, CEO of AB Minerals Corporation. Picture: Supplied.

The first industrial scale Coltan (Columbite-Tantalite) separation plant in Africa will be built in Rwanda by AB Minerals Corporation, and will become operational in mid-2017. It will bring much needed industrialisation opportunities to the region where the mineral is produced.

Rwanda is currently the number one exporter of Coltan, supplying 50% of the world’s tantalum. Coltan is a dull metallic mineral which is a combination of columbite and tantalite and which is refined to produce tantalum.

Frank Balestra, CEO at AB Minerals Corporation says there is an urgent need to increase the industrialisation of the mining sector throughout Africa, and that the best way to achieve this is through increased technology and high-level skills transfer from more senior industry participants.

“Many of the artisanal & small scale mining companies and cooperatives who represent almost 80 per cent of the total miners in the country, will for the first time be able to sell their ore directly to a local smelter rather than to agents,” he says.

“The reason most African mineral resources are exported as raw material is due to a low level of industrialisation in the local sector. Bringing Coltan processing directly to the region will bring industrialisation to the country and the mining industry in Rwanda and East Africa,” he says.

Local government will gain an increase in tax revenue through having the mineral concentrate upgraded to high purity oxides, prior to its export from Rwanda.

“This increase in revenue means the country will be able to deploy more funding to other economic sectors throughout the country. This is essential for employment creation and improvement of living conditions of the people,” Balestra says.

This implementation will also create interest in bringing new projects and international investments into Rwanda.

“It will not only create value-added products for export, it will bring significant benefits to the people of Rwanda and those connected to the development of the Coltan industry,” he says, adding that the Rwanda Government, from Rwanda Development Board to the Ministry of Mining are extremely supportive of the project.

AB Minerals will look to hire people in the fields of metallurgy, chemistry, accounting and finance, lab operations, quality assurance and quality control (QA/QC), as well as plant managers and shift managers. During construction of the facility where the processing plant will be located, there will also be employment opportunities.

Construction of the plant will start after a US$1 million production/evaluation run conducted at a major laboratory in the United States.

It will take approximately eight months to construct the plant, and it is expected to be fully operational by the second half of 2017.

(Research and interview by Trust Matsilele, written by Qhama Nokwali)

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