Kwale based Base Titanium has reported record production of ore estimated at five tonnes in the last quarter of 2018. This happened as focus shifted to maximising mineral production.
The firm has been mining the Kwale Mineral Sands. Base Titanium Acting General Manager for External Affairs and Development Simon Wall said mining continued in the Central Dune ahead of the expected transition to the South Dune in June 2019 quarter.
He noted that there was another good safety performance with no Lost Time Injuries (“LTI”). Wall said mining continued in the Central Dune with three hydraulic units commissioned to replace the Dozer Mining Unit.
“Despite a five per cent increase in ore mined, production of heavy mineral concentrate fell 25 per cent to 149 kilotonne as mining progressed through the low-grade fringes of the ore body,” the official said.
He spoke on the sidelines of a media tour of the facility located in Kwale County recently. Wall said following completion of construction of the tailings storage facility and outer sand wall in the last quarter, all sand tailings are now being deposited in the mined-out Central Dune pit, representing the first rehabilitation stage at the section.
He noted that good rains continued throughout the quarter resulting in Mukurumudzi Dam remaining full.
Mr Wall stated that the minerals separation plant availability treated 191,633 tonnes of heavy mineral concentrate to produce 24,505 tonnes of rutile at a recovery of 99 per cent.
Ilmenite production, at a recovery of 102 per cent, was 108,465 tonnes, eight per cent lower than the previous quarter, while Zircon production at 8,252 tonnes was 15 per cent down on the previous quarter, impacted by lower contained zircon in the feed and lower recovery of 72 per cent.
During the previous quarter, it was at 79 per cent. He said that despite some softening in the global pigment industry, demand for feedstock remains high as producers continue to target maximum output.
Ilmenite prices remained stable and are expected to continue at current levels through the next quarter.
China, Wall said, remained the top importer of the minerals mined at the Kwale Sands Mine.
Ongoing supply constraints in the rutile sector have maintained upward pressure on rutile prices. This is expected to continue through the March 2019 quarter.
Zircon demand, however, weakened through the quarter, though supply constraints supported stable prices, which are expected to remain at current levels through early 2019.
Bulk loading operations at the Sh3 billion Likoni Port facility also ran smoothly, dispatching 126,000 tonnes of ilmenite and rutile during the quarter. Containerised shipments of rutile and zircon through the Port of Mombasa also continued according to plan.
Mr Wall said the planned transition to the South Dune ore body has been brought forward to June 2019 (previously scheduled for July 2019.
This was due to mining in the Central Dune faster than anticipated.
Engineering work, procurement, site clearing and earthworks for the transition continued in the quarter with equipment deliveries commencing in December 2018.
The total cost of works for the mine move is estimated at Sh1.23 billion ($12.3 million).
The project involves the supply and installation of 7,400m of slurry and water piping, an 8,500 11kV power line, a pipe bridge across the Mukurumudzi Dam spillway and slurry and process water booster pumps.
Giving an update of the additional mining area, Wall noted that acquisition of additional mining tenure continues to be progressed through the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining ahead of an updated Ore Reserve.
It is based on the expanded 2017 Kwale South Dune Mineral Resource as announced on October 4, 2017.
He noted that following expiry of Special Prospecting License 173, a new Prospecting License for the area surrounding the Kwale Mine was granted.
“The license was issued under the Mining Act 2016 and is valid for three years with the option of extending,
He said the extensional exploration drilling in the North-East Sector in Kwale East commenced in Q2 2018 with 274 holes for 3,835 metres of drilling completed.
Completion of the remaining drilling programme in the area (4,200 metres) was suspended pending resolution of community access issues. Wall said that the community engagement in the area is underway.