Base Titanium pegs hope on new government in expansion bid

It is seeking prospecting licenses for Kwale and Lamu region.

In Summary

•The current mine-life ends in 2024.

•Base accounts for 65 per cent of Kenya's mineral exports.

A mining site at Base Titanium's Kwale operations/
A mining site at Base Titanium's Kwale operations/

Australian firm-Base Titanium is hoping the new government will lift the moratorium on mining licenses to pave way for explorations and possible expansion of its operations in Kenya.

The freeze on issuance of licenses was put in place in November 2019 to pave way for the mapping (survey) of the country’s mineral deposits.

Kenya has also not renewed or issued any new mining licences since 2015 when then Mining Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala revoked the licences of 65 companies, forcing mining firms to operate under a gazette notice.

Base which commenced mining titanium ores in the country in 2013, with the first shipment in February 2014, is keen to further expand its operations having applied for three prospecting licenses.

These are for Ramisi area in Msambweni, Kuranzi area near the Kwale-Taita Taveta Counties border and Lamu.

It’s last prospecting licence was on an area covering 136 square kilometres in Vanga area, towards the Kenya-Tanzania border of Lunga Lunga, which was approved by the Mineral Rights Board and issued in December 2018.

It current mine-life ends in 2024, which is pegged on a 'deed of variation' from the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, which cleared the company to extend its Special Mining Lease boundary at the current site.

Initially, the company had indicated it would stop mining in Kenya by December next year.

Base’s application was approved in July last year, but could not conduct any activities until the deed of variation was awarded.

According to the ministry, Base Titanium had put in place “the required measures including earning a social license to operate in Kenya,” which saw it receive the extension.

Speaking during the release of the company’s sustainability report (2022) general manager external affairs, Simon Wall, said the company remains keen on expansion, including away from its current Kwale base where it is also engaging the community on its expansion plans.

It is looking at prospecting in areas along the Lamu-Tana River counties border.

“We have multiple prospecting licenses in the system. We are keen on dialogue with the government to see the moratorium lifted…you can only mine what you know is there,” Wall said.

The current extension area is being mined concurrently with the Kwale South Dune deposit to maximise mining rates and better manage tailings, management says.

Base accounts for 65 per cent of Kenya's mineral exports.

Last year, the country’s total value of minerals produced increased by 33 per cent from Sh22.7 billion in 2020, to Sh30.2 billion.

“This is attributed to a 31.5 per cent increase in the value of the titanium ore minerals from Sh19.5 billion to Sh25.6 billion in 2021, “ Kenya National Bureau of Statistics says in its Economic Survey 2022.

The minerals played a role as the country’s total value of export earnings improved from Sh643.7 billion in 2020 to Sh743.7 billion in 2021, translating to a 15.5 per cent increase. 

The growth was largely attributable to increases in domestic exports of horticulture, titanium ores and concentrates, and articles of apparel and clothing accessories, KNBS says. 

Total exports to China, were valued at Sh21.9 billion in 2021 compared to Sh 14.8 billion in 2020, representing a 48.1 per cent increase.

“This was majorly attributable to an increase in domestic exports of titanium ores and concentrate to this destination,” the Economic Survey states.

During the year, export price of the titanium ore and concentrates rose by 13.7 per cent to Sh47,445 per tonne , from Sh41,746 per tonne recorded in the previous period, leading to an increase in production value during the review period. 

That of soda ash declined by 6.0 per cent from Sh22,778 in 2020 to Sh21,416 per tonne.

Other key minerals produced in the country include gold, crushed refined soda, soda ash, salt and gemstones.

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