November 11, 2011 / 8:11 AM / 7 years ago

Canada's Pacific Wildcat eyes Kenyan rare earths

* To seek mining lease in Q4, 2011

* Carrying out an environment impact study

NAIROBI, Nov 11 (Reuters) - Canada-based minerals and metals firm Pacific Wildcat Resources plans to apply for a mining lease within this quarter, for exploitation of niobium and rare earth minerals at its Kenyan mining project near the port city of Mombasa.

The company said it has established a significant presence of niobium and rare earth oxide minerals in five diamond drilling holes at its site at Mrima Hill.

Environmental studies on the Mrima prospect are expected to be concluded within this quarter and application for a mining lease placed to the Kenyan government, the company said in an update seen by Reuters late on Thursday.

“Existing license to explore within forest reserve in place, further approvals required for mining,” Pacific Wildcat 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.

The 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 mining projects for the minerals in recent years.

China, which accounts for an estimated 97 percent of global rare earth supply, 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.

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