Exploration is the future of mining in Kwale County. It represents an opportunity to extend the remaining 4 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.
Based on current reserves the Kwale Mine has a limited operational life. At the end of 2022, the reserve 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 to the existing operation. If successful, the mine will remain productive for a longer period as a development partner in Kwale County, thus allowing benefits to continue flowing to the National Government, the County and local communities by providing employment, bringing royalty and taxation revenues, contributing to community development programmes and stimulating wider economic activity.
In addition to its Special Mining Lease No 23 ("SML"), Base Titanium holds two prospecting licenses ("PL").
PL/2018/0119 covering an area of 88km2, the current tenure of which remains valid to 25th May 2021.
A second license, designated PL/2015/0042 and covering an area of 136km2, lying to the south west of PL/2018/0119 and extending towards the Tanzanian border, was granted on 5th December 2018 and is valid to 4th December 2021.
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, local administration, 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 it 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 drilling programmes followed a successful airborne geophysical and radiometric survey, conducted in 2015, that covered the south coast region from Mombasa to Lunga Lunga. This survey identified a series of potential exploration targets, subsequently confirmed through ground reconnaissance, leading to the design of an extensive aircore drilling programme.
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 used for this work is a Toyota Landcruiser-mounted unit. It is versatile and manoeuvrable, creating minimal impact on the ground.
- Each hole is completed in about one hour, 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. Infill drilling, where required, is closer spaced.
- The impact on affected households is minimal and compensation is 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 are created.
- Business opportunities, such as provision of catering and other support services to the field exploration work are 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 growing the sector.
- 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 current practice, resettled communities are 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.
Exploration Completed to Date and Future Plans
SW Sector of PL/2018/0119 (formerly SPL 173)
- Drilling in this sector commenced on 25th November 2016 and was concluded on 24th February 2017.
- Including infill drilling on the South Dune, 773 holes were drilled for a total of 11,738m.
- The results yielded additional mining inventory of 19.6 million tonnes representing 660,000 tonnes in situ heavy minerals (“HM”) at a grade of 3.5% HM with a mineral assemblage of 53% ilmenite, 13% rutile and 6% zircon.
- This discovery represents a South Dune mining inventory increment of 30% of mineralised material at a cut-off grade of 3% HM, which translates to a 29% uplift of in situ HM.
- At an annual mining rate of 17 million tonnes, the additional inventory provides an extension of the life of mine of 13 months.
- A variation of the SML to incorporate the additional mining inventory is in progress.
NE Sector of PL/2018/0119
- Extensive drilling was conducted between 12th April and 28th August 2018 totalling 573 holes for 20,958m.
- The programme included a re-evaluation, including infill drilling, of the North Dune deposit previously explored in 2012/13 and areas to the east.
- A Mineral Resource estimate for the North Dune was released on 1st May 2019. It is estimated to be 171 million tonnes (Mt) at an average heavy mineral (HM) grade of 1.5% and containing 2.6Mt based on a 1% HM cut-off grade.
- A further drilling programme is now planned to allow a better understanding of the resource and a study phase commenced to assess the economics of potential mine life extensions.
- Following granting of this PL in December 2018, the exploration programme commenced on 1st April 2019 following extensive engagement and consultation with local government authorities and community members.