Base projects strong mineral output on remaining mine life

Reopening of the global economy to boost sales, correct prices.

In Summary

•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.

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

Base Titanium is projecting a stable output on mineral production in Kwale even as the current mine life ends in 22 months 

The Australian firm planed to continue prospecting on a Special Mining Lease secured in July last year but  faced land access challenges.

Yesterday, Base said a land owner consent for access for exploration activities to the area immediately Northeast of its Kwale operations, and within Prospecting Licence 2018/0119, was secured during the quarter.

About 320 holes for a total of 3,260 metres were drilled by the end of the quarter.

“Exploration in this area will continue in the March quarter as further land access is secured,” general manager external affairs Simon Wall said during the firms Q3 performance update.

Implementation of the Bumamani Project, which will extend Kwale operations mine life to November 2024, continued during the quarter and mining activities on the Kwale North Dune remain on schedule to commence in March 2023.

With this, Base is projecting stable mineral productions maintaining an initial projection of target of between 62,000 to 73,000 tonnes of rutile, 260,000 to 310,000 tonnes of Ilmenite and 22,000 to 27,000 tonnes of  Zircon, the three key minerals produced at Kwale.

This means there is a possibility of higher mineral volumes for rutile and zircon this year, compared to a year earlier when the total production for the two was 69,844 tonnes and 25,928 tonnes–Economic Survey 2022.

The projection however falls short on illmenite whose total production was 345,000 tonnes in 2021.

During the year, a total of Sh25.6 billion was realised from the sale of the three minerals where illmenite fetched Sh10.2 billion, up from Sh6.6 billion in 2020.

Rutile sales totalled Sh11.3 billion up from Sh8.8 billion while Zircon earned the company Sh4.2 billion up from Sh4.1 billion.

During the third quarter under review, base spent $9.9 million (Sh1.2 billion) in exploration activities (last quarter, $9.2 million or Sh1.1 billion) with construction, earthworks and final land access activities taking place.

The company is banking on the reopening of the China economy among other key export markets to drive sales, with prices poised to increase on high demand.

During the quarter under review, rutile prices experienced further gains while ilmenite and zircon prices declined.

“Subdued conditions in most downstream markets are applying downward price pressure across all products for the March quarter, however demand for most products is expected to stabilise and provide a steady footing for future prices,” Base notes in its Q3 update released yesterday.

Meanwhile, the firm is hoping the government will lift the freeze on issuance of licenses soon to allow it continue with its prospecting, and possible mining activities.

It has until November next year before exhausting minerals at the current mine site.

Last week, Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs CS Salim Mvurya said plans are underway to lift the ban, possibly before June.

The freeze was instituted in November 2019 to pave way for the mapping of the country’s minerals.

Kenya has also not renewed existing licenses since 2015 when at least 65 companies had their permits revoked.

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.

The company which commenced mining titanium ores in the country in 2013, with the first shipment in February 2014, is keen to expand its operations beyond 2024.

It has three pending prospecting licence applications.

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

“The Company is working with the Government of Kenya, and other mining sector stakeholders, to see the moratorium lifted,” Wall said.

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