Exploration is the future of mining in Kwale County. It represents an opportunity to extend the remaining 5 years of the Kwale Mine life and with it bring further employment, economic output, development and community benefits from Kenya’s largest mining operation and the sector’s largest single investment.
The Kwale Mine has a total operational life of 11 years. In 2023, the resource will be depleted and the mine will close. In an effort to extend its life, Base Titanium is seeking to identify additional mineral deposits that may lie in proximity of the existing operation. If successful, Base will remain productive for longer in Kwale County as a development partner, which will allow benefits to continue flowing to the National Government, Kwale County and local communities through providing employment, bringing in royalty and taxation revenues, contributing to community programmes and stimulating wider economic activity over an extended period of time.
In addition to its Special Mining Lease No 23, Base Titanium holds Special Prospecting License (“SPL”) 173 covering an area of 177km2, the current tenure of which remains valid to 25th May 2018.
Base Titanium applied for a second prospecting license on 23rd June 2015 covering an area of 136km2 lying to the south west of SPL 173 and extending towards the Tanzanian border. This application was approved by the Mining Licensing Committee and designated SPL/2015/0042. It has also been recommended for approval by the Mineral Rights Board and awaits final granting by the Cabinet Secretary. With all requirements met, we are optimistic that the license will be issued in the near future.
Prior to commencing any exploration drilling, a systematic multi-stakeholder engagement programme has been developed and implemented in order to:
- fully inform the Kwale County Government, the local administration, the political leadership and affected communities;
- provide full details of the planned programme in order to eliminate misunderstandings and misconceptions around exploration and to seek support and informed consent;
- explain the purpose of undertaking exploration, what exploration involves, how it will be conducted and the impact it will have on communities; and
- highlight the mutual benefits arising out of the exploration programme itself and later in extending the life of the mine.
The engagement programme ran from June to October 2016 and covered all areas that are intended to be impacted by drilling activities.
The proposed drilling programme follows a successful airborne geophysical and radiometric survey, conducted in 2015, that covered the south coast region from Mombasa to Lunga Lunga. This airborne survey identified a series of potential exploration targets, subsequently confirmed through ground reconnaissance, leading to the design of a programme comprising up to 18,000 metres of aircore drilling across both licenses – initially in SPL 173, then later in SPL/2015/0042 once the latter license is issued.
The key points to note about the exploration process are:
- Drilling is not mining; the two activities are very different and have very different impacts.
- The work area around each drill hole covers just a few square metres.
- The diameter of the drill hole is 70mm and only a few kilos of sample are extracted from each hole.
- The drill rig to be used for this work is a Toyota Landcruiser-mounted unit. It is versatile and manoeuvrable, creating minimal impact on the ground.
- Each hole will be completed in about one hour, will be back-filled and the immediate area returned to its original condition.
Immediate Impacts and Benefits of Exploration
- Drill lines are typically spaced 800 metres apart with holes placed at 200-metre intervals along each line, thus affecting relatively few land holders within the targeted exploration area.
- The impact on affected households is minimal and compensation will be paid for damage, if any, caused to land holders’ trees, crops or other assets in accessing the drill site.
- Employment opportunities exist for residents in the exploration areas – about 25 support jobs, including line clearing, drill rig crewing and sample processing positions will be created.
- Business opportunities, such as provision of catering and other support services to the field exploration work will be created.
Long-term Impacts and Benefits of Exploration
- If successful, the exploration programme provides the only opportunity to delineate additional resources that may significantly increase the life of the Kwale mine.
- A successful exploration programme will enhance Kenya’s reputation as an attractive investment destination and contribute to the government’s stated objective of building the mining industry.
- An extension of the life of mine will generate additional export revenues, taxation, royalties and broader economic output beyond the current mine life.
- If an economically viable discovery is made, mining of such a deposit will only take place some years into the future after current reserves are depleted
- In the event of extending the mining lease into new areas, a programme to resettle affected communities will be undertaken through consultation, agreement and application of Kenyan laws and international standards to manage the compensation and relocation process.
- As is the current practice, resettled communities will be prioritised for employment and other economic opportunities.
- Significant community investment programmes already provided by Base Titanium in the areas of social infrastructure, livelihood enhancement, health and education will continue through the extended life of mine and cover areas near the new mining sites.