•The government is banking on reforms in the sector to increase earnings.
•In 2019, it froze issuance of prospecting and mining licenses to allow a survey that would establishing the types of minerals and geographical location.
Kenya’s mining sector recorded a strong performance last year, latest economic performance update indicates, as titanium ores continued to remain the top earner.
Total earnings from mineral production in-creased by 16.6 per cent to Sh35.2 billion in 2022, the Economic Survey 2023 indicates, as the sector boosted the country’s GDP growth, albeit a slowdown recorded at 4.8 per cent compared to 7.6 per cent in 2021.
While key sectors such as agriculture performed dismally, pegged on poor rainfall, mining was among the strongest sectors with the earnings increasing from Sh30 billion in 2021.
“Production of most of the minerals increased except that of carbon dioxide, which decreased from 21,100 tonnes in 2021 to 18,2000 tonnes in 2022,” Kenya National Bureau of Statistics(KNBS) notes in the report.
The value of titanium ore minerals (Ilmenite, Rutile and Zircon) increased from Sh25.6 billion in 2021, to Sh28.3 billion in 2022, as Australian company-Base Titanium moved to the last site of the licensed mining area.
Kenya also reaped from gold whose value more than doubled to Sh3.4 billion up from Sh1.4 billion in 2021.
The value of Soda Ash produced increased from Sh1.8 billion to Sh2 billion in 2022.
Other key minerals were crushed refined soda (Sh657.2 million), gemstones (rough) Sh402.5 million and cut gemstone (Sh182.2 million).
The country has earned about Sh137.9 billion from mining activities in the last four years, with the government banking on reforms in the sector to increase revenues from the sector.
In 2019, the government froze issuance of prospecting and mining licenses to allow a survey that would establishing the types of minerals and geographical location, and help the government make informed mining decisions.
Kenya has also not renewed existing licenses since 2015 when at least 65 companies had their permits revoked.
Those operational have been running under a gazette notice, with licensees whose permits expire forced to seek special clearance from the ministry.
The government is however working towards lifting the ban, which could come by June this year, according to Mining, Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya.
This is however subject to the completion of the geophysical data compilation from the countrywide mineral deposits mapping (survey) done in 2021.
“We are working on our online cadaster so that all applications for licenses can be done online,” Mvurya said during a recent media briefing in Nairobi.
Uncertainty over the future of Base Titanium’s operations in Kenya has however been a concern, where its expansion have been heavily affected by the ban on licensing.
It is hoping the new government will lift the moratorium to pave way for explorations and possible expansion of its operations in Kenya.
Base which commenced mining titanium ores in the country in 2013, with the first shipment in February 2014, accounts for 65 per cent of Kenya’s mineral exports, meaning closing shop will hard hit the country’s earnings from the sector.
It has been 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.
Its 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 this year.