•Mining operations of the south dune ore-body to start in June
Constrained supply of ilmenite and rutile in the global market continue to push the Kwale's Base Titanium to pursue more mine areas in the region.
Acting general manager for external affairs and development Simon Wall said there is an emerging Ilmenite deficit created by strong demand against the company’s ability to supply.
The Australian firm is now looking to increase its mines’ life and offset their mining costs in better prices following declined supplies from major ilmenite-producing countries like India and Vietnam and high demand of the Chinese pigment after the Chinese New Year.
“Demand for ilmenite from existing customers exceeded our supply and there has been a significant increase in inquiries from new customers globally,” Wall said.
Wall has announced to begin mining operations of the south dune ore-body in June after relocating equipments.
The transition involves supply and installation of 7,400 of slurry and water piping, an 8,500 metre 11Kv power line, a pipe bridge across the Mukurumudzi Dam spillway, a 1.25 megawatt slurry booster pump and a 1 MW process water booster pump.
“The company has completed engineering, construction and procurement works. The total costs on the transition process is estimated at Sh1.24 billion ($12.3 million) by June. The company has so far spent Sh1.04 billion ($10.1 million),” he added.
Currently, the firm is moving away from the central dune where mining operations are focused at the western and southern part as depletion is expected by end of quarter.
The activities have been characterised by high tonnes of mines but lower ore grades compared to previous quarters.
During the three months to March, the Australian firm produced 87,179 tonnes of Ilmenite, 20,171 tonnes of Rutile and 6,943 of Zircon. This is compared to 108,465 tonnes, 24,505 tonnes and 8,252 tonnes respectively produced in the three months to December 2018
Sales for the minerals also declined to 81,339 tonnes, 14,593 tonnes and 7,260 tonnes for Ilmenite, Rutile and Zircon respectively compared to 106,788tonnes, 24,008tonnes and 8,063 tonnes.
A mineral resource estimate for the Kwale North Dune deposits is expected sooner. However, the firm continue for face access restrictions from community in Kkwale East.
“Completion of the remaining drilling program in the North-East sector of Kwale East remains suspended pending resolution of community access issues. Drill assay results to date have shown potential for some limited extensional economic resource close to the central dune, but this remains subject to more detailed evaluation,” Wall added.
Drilling for the Vanga prospecting licence began on April 1 and community engagement is still ongoing.
Base Titanium has applied for another license to cover northern eastern extension of this area after the ground become available.
Expenditure on exploration activities during the quarter were Sh20.21 million ($0.2 million) compared to last quarter at Sh40.4 million ($0.4 million).