British mining company Savannah Resources says it has commenced drilling at the Ravene heavy mineral sands deposit in Inhambane province, in southern Mozambique.

The deposit is part of the Mutamba Project which is being developed by Savannah Resources in partnership with the Anglo-Australian mining company, Rio Tinto. Savannah has a prospecting licence for the Jangamo deposit in Inhambane, while Rio Tinto has rights over the adjacent prospects of Mutamba and Dongane, along with the Chilubane deposit in the neighbouring province of Gaza.

Savannah will be the operator of the joint venture and Rio Tinto has pledged to either buy or provide buyers for all the heavy mineral concentrate produced. Savannah currently holds a ten per cent stake in the project, but this will grow to 51 per cent as the project progresses to a full feasibility study.

Savannah is already nearing completion of the auger drill programme, which will be followed by more drilling which is due to end in January 2017. The data gathered will enable the company to produce an inferred resource estimate.

According to Savannah’s chief executive office, David Archer, “our resource definition drilling will more precisely define the high-grade zones of total heavy minerals at the Ravene deposit, which we believe could increase the current global indicated and inferred mineral resource inventory of 3.5 billion tonnes at 3.8 per cent total heavy minerals at the Mutamba Project North”.

The dominant heavy mineral in the sand at the project is ilmenite. However, the sand also contains rutile and zircon. Ilmenite and rutile are used to make white pigments for paints, paper, and plastic. Titanium can be extracted from these ores and used to manufacture metallic parts where light weight and high strength are needed. Zircon (zirconium silicate) is used for abrasive and insulating purposes.