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Forget miraa: Discovery of minerals stirs up Meru locals

Miraa on a mining site background. [File, Standard]

An Australian mining company says it has unearthed copper and gold deposits in Meru County, in what could radically change the fortunes of the Miraa growing region. However, the commercial viability of the deposits is yet to be confirmed.

Avira Resources Ltd, which focuses on exploring tin, gold, copper, and other base and precious metals said the Meru Copper discoveries could rival findings made years ago in Okiep, a small town in the Northern Cape Province, South Africa, which was in the 1870s ranked as having the richest copper mine in the world.

The firm said in its regulatory filings  that evidence of possible copper deposits would be supported by further mining investigations. Sample minerals were shipped to South Africa where evidence of the precious minerals was confirmed, it said.

“Copper mineralisation was discovered by local farmers after identifying malachite-rich float samples. The mineral occurrence remains unexplored and open in all directions. The sample was submitted to the Scientific Services Laboratory in South Africa for analysis,” it said.

“While follow-up work is required, the highly metamorphosed gneissic environment bears a superficial resemblance to the Okiep Copper District in the Namakwaland Metamorphic Complex of South Africa. This was a copper region which produced more than two million tonnes of copper in 150 years.”

The firm said evidence of gold deposits was established but not confirmed. “Copper mineralisation is the main target, however, the significant gold value of 4.68 g/t should not be overlooked and may point towards a polymetallic-style deposit.”

The firm spoke after it acquired a majority stake in a local company that has rights to a single 251-square-kilometre prospecting licence under the application in Meru.

Under the new deal, the Kenyan firm that was established in June last year - Goitom Mining Ltd will smile to the bank after selling up to an 80 per cent interest in the Meru Copper-Gold Project in Meru.

 “We are delighted to have the opportunity to earn into a substantial land holding in the highly prospective central Kenya region that adds to and is consistent with our focus on acquiring early-stage exploration assets in the base and battery metals space. We look forward to the completion of due diligence investigations with our partners at Goitom,” said Avira Executive Director David Deloub said in a statement.

Regulatory documents

Mr Tim Ondielo, Principal of Goitom stated: “Goitom is excited by the opportunity to work with Avira on the Meru Project and look forward to commencing field activities as soon as possible”.

Regulatory documents list the shareholders and directors of Goitom which was established on June 30 2023 as Tim Abdi Ondielo as the sole shareholder.

Any confirmation of potential gold or copper discoveries could elevate Meru, whose stronghold cash crop is Miraa into a new mineral powerhouse. Kenya has proven deposits of gold, titanium and coal.

The country is also understood to hold significant deposits of copper, niobium, manganese and rare earth minerals. Copper is a key mineral used in homes, factories, electronics, and power generation. In recent years, copper’s role in growing electric vehicle production has further boosted demand for the metal globally.

Miraa or Khat has until now been the economic mainstay of residents of Meru. This is likely to change however with the potential discoveries. Hundreds of Kenyan khat growers in Meru, have uprooted coffee in favour of the profitable Miraa or khat.

Meru farmers mainly sell Khat - the wildly popular herbal stimulant in neighbouring Somalia. Miraa is said to increase energy, deepen focus and suppress appetite. It is grown in central Kenya (mainly Meru) and Ethiopia in Africa, with both countries exporting the leaves to Somalia.

News of the possible Copper discoveries has come at a time when upward momentum has propelled copper prices to within a whisker of the psychological $10,000 (Sh1.33 million a metric tonne mark and is expected to be sustained by the appearance of shortages over the coming months.

New technology

Global expectations of tight supplies and optimism about demand prospects from energy transition applications such as electric vehicles and new technology such as artificial intelligence and automation have recently bolstered copper prices.

A pick-up in manufacturing activity, particularly in top consumer China where surveys of purchasing managers have started to show expansion has also contributed to enthusiasm for copper which recently hit a two-year peak at $9,988 (Sh1.32 million) a tonne for a gain of 25 per cent since early October.

Prices accelerated higher last year after the prospect of shortages of copper concentrate, a feedstock for metal, was raised by the closure of Canadian Miner First Quantum’s, opening a new tab Cobre mine in Panama.

Copper prices on the London Metal Exchange are now around $9,644 (Sh1.28 million) a tonne.

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