Mkango Resources Ltd (LON:MKA, TSX-V:MKA) said it is capable of producing significantly higher recoveries and concentrate grades from the 51%-owned Songwe Hill rare earths project in Malawi than previously expected, according to the results of a flotation pilot plant programme. The piloting programme demonstrated that the flotation process is robust and straightforward to scale up and the results supported a significant increase in both flotation recoveries and concentrate grade for the ongoing feasibility study versus a 2015 pre-feasibility study for Songwe, the company said. The results showed an increase in flotation recovery of total rare earth oxides (TREO) of 74% from 67%; a tripling of flotation concentrate grade to 15% from 4.7%; a substantial increase in flotation upgrade, with the optimised flotation regime increasing the run-of-mine ore grade by 10 times versus three times in the pre-feasibility study; and a positive impact on downstream integrated hydrometallurgical operations. “These excellent flotation pilot results for the Songwe feasibility study are a significant improvement versus the 2015 pre-feasibility study and is expected to have a positive impact on downstream hydrometallurgical operations, the piloting for which has already commenced,” said chief executive William Dawes. “In contrast to many competing projects, during commercial operations the flotation concentrate will be processed in the country of origin, via an integrated hydrometallurgical plant, as opposed to being exported, meaning greater efficiencies and value added in-country. “Completion of flotation piloting is a major milestone for Mkango and further positions the company as one of the very few advanced stage rare earth projects positioned to meet demand from accelerating growth in the electric vehicle sector, wind power generation and other industries driven by decarbonisation of the economy.” The ongoing feasibility study envisages doubling the scale of the mining and processing operations at Songwe to one million tonnes per year of run-of-mine feed to the mill. The higher flotation concentrate grade means that the tonnes of concentrate entering the hydrometallurgy plant would drop by a third and contain around double the quantity of rare earths versus the pre-feasibility study. On Friday, Mkango released its financial results for 2020. It ended the year with cash of $4.9mln compared with $9.5mln at the end of December 2019. Its losses for the year widened to $4.1mln, from $3.0mln, partly due to an increase in mineral project expenses of $650,667 as work on the feasibility study progressed. It is targeting completion of the feasibility study in the fourth quarter of 2021, although it cautioned that the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic may impact this timing.