Uganda's largest vermiculite mine in Namekara in Mbale district has been purchased by Australia-listed company, Gulf Resources.
The Namekara vermiculite project was initially purchased mining giant Rio Tinto in 2007. In March Rio Tinto announced plans to sell the Namekara project, despite its reputation as one of the largest high-grade vermiculite mineral deposits in the world. There are unconfirmed reports that Rio Tinto was forced to sell because of the ongoing global economic recession.
A statement from Gulf Resources chairperson, Scott Reid, says completion of the transaction for the purchase of Namekara is a significant achievement for his company. He says Gulf Resources will inject 500,000 dollars working capital into the vermiculite operation over the next 12 months to bring it to a sustained production rate of 8,000 tonnes per year.
Gulf further plans to expand the operation to achieve 25,000 tonnes per year by 2012.
Minerals were first found in Namekara in the 1950s. However it wasn't until 2002 that initial test production started with a small-scale operation that produced 16,000 tonnes of ore.
The US Geological Survey estimates global vermiculite market to be 590,000 tonnes with production from Southern Africa accounting for about 39% of this.