Rare mineral sparks race for exploration
Posted by Administrator on March 13, 2012
Huge deposits of a rare mineral have been found in Kwale county, sparking a race for exploration.
A Canadian firm, which has been prospecting for niobium at Mrima Hills said on Monday that it had extended operations to more regions of the county rich in the mineral.
Niobium is a metal used in the production of steel, rocket turbines, magnets, car parts, television set elements, lamp filaments and jewellery.
Only few countries in the world among them Brazil, Canada, Australia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Mozambique produce the metal.
In Kwale, government officials and prospectors say the deposits could be mined for up to 20 years and bring in as much as Sh270 billion.
Last year, the PS in the Ministry of Environment and Mineral Resources, Mr Ali Mohammed, said the project will have enormous direct and indirect impact on local economies.
The central government, he said, would receive 80 per cent, county government 15 per cent and the community five per cent of the royalties.
Pacific Wildcat Resources Corps (Paw), the Canadian firm doing the prospecting, and its partner, Cortec Mining Kenya (CMK), said yesterday that they would extend their operations in the coastal county.
Kwale geologist Wafula Baraza said: “We are hopeful that the deposits are large and that is why the investor is putting a lot of money into prospecting.”
Cortec chief executive David Anderson said the deposits could last up to 20 years and would make Kenya one of the world’s top producers of the mineral.
Prof Ken Collerson, a consultant hired by Paw, surveyed Kwale last November and concluded that in addition to Mrima, there were deposits of niobium and other rare earth minerals around Kiruku, Dzombo, Nguluku and Dzirihini hills.
Prof Collerson said that the discovery had increased the area of prospecting around Mrima hill to more than 110km square.
He said in a report that there were also chances of getting platinum, gold, scandium, gallium and copper deposits in the area.
During the survey, Paw collected 34 rock chips in Kwale.
Prof Collerson said all samples were taken for analysis in Perth, Australia.
It was identified that the Dzombo and Nguluku hills had a higher potential for gold, scandium, gallium and copper.
Prof Collerson added that following these positive results, Paw planned to undertake a detailed airborne regional survey at Mrima and the surrounding hills to determine the locations that have large concentrations of the earth metals.
Paw’s chief executive officer Darren Townsend said the exploration work undertaken by geologists and Prof Collerson identified many targets for the minerals.
Mr Townsend said it was the intention of Paw and CMK to actively explore the additional hills to gain a better understanding of the potential of the minerals.
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