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Titanium mining firm seeks four-year licence extension

By Macharia Kamau | April 5th 2021

Base Titanium is seeking to extend its mining activities beyond 2023 when it expects to exhaust the titanium ores it has been mining in Kwale County.

The company has been prospecting for more minerals in the areas surrounding the mines.

It believes it has found adequate deposits of titanium ores that could enable it to extend its operations in the country by another four years.

The company, owned by Base Resources of Australia, has lodged an application with the National Environment Management Authority (Nema) seeking approvals to extend the mine northwards in areas that are not covered by the current special mining licence it holds.

“In a move to assess the possibility of extending the life of mine even further, Base, in 2018, decided to re-evaluate the potential of the ‘North Dune’ mineral deposit, which is located immediately to the north-east of the Kwale operation’s offices and plant. The North Dune is a low-grade 582 hactare resource that has the clear potential to be economic,” said the company in the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) it has filed with Nema.

“The proposed project of mining in the North Dune commencing in early 2024, increase the life of mine by a further four to 4.5 years.”

The company recently got a one-year extension on the life of the mine after the Mining ministry varied its current licence, allowing it to mine in what is referred to as the South Dune.

Mining activities have over the last 13 years been restricted to the Central Dune.

Going further south increase the life of mine to December 2023.

“Economically viable mineral resources in an extension to the south dune, but outside of the current Special Mining License were identified and an application for an extension to the south dune resource was approved, resulting in the projected mine life shifting to December 2023,” said the company.

Base Titanium started work at the Kwale mines in 2010 after acquisition from Canada’s Tiomen Resources. It exported the first cargo of the mineral sands in 2014.

The Canadian firm had been on site since the late 1990s but failed to make progress partly due to fights with the community as well as lack of financing to move the project forward.

Titanium ore has now become the largest mineral export since the country started to export the three mineral sands of ilmenite (titanium-iron oxide – used as raw material for paint), rutile (titanium oxide – raw material for titanium metal) and zircon (zirconium silicate – used in the manufacture of ceramics).

The mineral sands earned the country Sh19.6 billion in 2019, according to the latest available data by the Kenya National Bureau of Statistics (KNBS).

The Kwale County operation accounted for 65 per cent of earnings by Kenya’s Mining industry, which raked in Sh29.1 billion that the industry earned in 2018.

“The (Kwale mining) operation adds an estimated $108 million (Sh11.8 billion) to Kenya’s gross domestic product (GDP) annually and generates a total of $186 million (Sh20.3 billion) in economic output per year,” said Base when arguing its case for an environmental licence in the application to Nema.

“Over the life of the mine (to December 2023), the contribution to GDP will be close to $1 billion (Sh100 billion). This figure does not take into account an increase in life of mine as a result of the North Dune extension. Prolonging the mine life will increase the contribution to GDP.”

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