Cortec Mining Kenya gets go ahead on Kwale mine

By Ruth Mutegi

Cortec Mining Kenya Limited (CMK) has finally been given a go ahead by the National Environment Management Authority to commence the mining and processing of niobium at Mirima Hills in Kwale County.

Cortec Mining Kenya Limited Managing Director David Anderson says tests results indicate very high deposits of niobium in the area and the mining process will commence in late 2014.

Kwale County has become a region of interest to many investors due to the discovery of mineral deposits in the region.

The mineral resource in the county is estimated at about 250 billion shillings but has remained untapped due to political interference as well as resistance from the local community.

At the beginning of the year, Australian miner Base Resource announced its plans to commence Titanium mining in the region, and Cortec Mining Kenya Limited has now followed suit.

The licensing of the mining of niobium by Cortec marks the end of the long wait for Kwale residents and it means that Kenya will become one of the largest producers of Niobium in Africa after Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, The Central Africa Republic and Chad.

Commenting on the EIA approvals, Mr Anderson said: “This is a great step forward for CMK and everyone in Kenya associated with this world class resource and project.”

“Initially we will be setting up a $3.5 million pilot processing plant with a feed stock rate of about 5 tonnes an hour to produce niobium concentrate at Mrima Hill,” he said.

“The plant will later be expanded into our full-scale concentrate plant that will process about 750,000 tons of ore per annum to produce some 6,000 to 7,000 tons of Niobium concentrate per annum”.

Small scale initial excavation is expected to begin in late 2014 followed by operation of the pilot plant from 2015.

The approval of the project comes at a time when unemployment stands at over 50 per cent in Kenya. CMK currently employs 40 people, but this will now increase rapidly.

“We will have 160 direct jobs once construction starts and up to 500 indirect jobs, as well as gains for the numerous local businesses involved in the construction process,” said Mr. Anderson.

While the government will be able to generate taxes and royalties from this project, for the people of Kwale this is not just a mining project, to them it is a source of employment with the company expected to set up a processing plant in the area.

Cortec says it will be seeking to have residents of Kwale as shareholders in the project whose small scale initial excavation is expected to commence in late 2014.

Niobium is a rare mineral with no replacement used to strengthen steel for cars, ships hulls, oil and gas pipelines, bridges, buildings and aircraft engines.