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Cortec licenced to mine niobium in Kwale

12 April 2013, 12:05

Kwale  - The Government has issued a 21-year mining license to a local subsidiary of a Canadian firm as the country readies itself to begin exploiting high value minerals useful in the production of steel products.

Since the discovery of rich minerals in the north of Kenya and along the country’s coastal strip, there has been renewed interest in the East Africa country in the clamor for exploration and mining.

Department of Mines and Geology issued Cortec Mining Kenya – a subsidiary of Pacific Wildcat Resources with a licence to mine high-grade niobium at Mrima Hill in Kwale County.

Niobium is a high value metal used to strengthen high performance steels and production of steel products such as aircraft turbine blades and vehicles.

Cortec Mining said it would start small-scale mining by end of this year and set up a processing plant by end of next year.

David Anderson, Cortec Mining managing director, said on Thursday the licence cleared way for the firm to start commercial exploration on the 142-hectare site on Mrima Hill.

The firm was in 2007 issued with a license to prospect and explore for the metal.

The license would see Kenya tap into the fifth largest Niobium deposit globally. Kenya will be one of largest producers of niobium in Africa after Congo, Nigeria, Rwanda, Burundi, Central Africa Republic and Chad.

“We expect to begin small scale mining by the end of this year with the main mining commencing for the pilot plant, subject to financing, by the end of 2014.Initially, we aim to produce 50 per cent niobium pentoxide concentrate, this concentrate itself can be sold as it is,” said Anderson.

He added that Cortec Mining plans to put up a niobium concentrate plant to process the resources, both in the Kwale district as well as in the area of Mombasa in the near future.

The firm has already commissioned preliminary designs for a ferro-niobium, a product with a huge global market.

The firm’s initial plan was to process 750,000 tonnes of ore annually.

This will produce high-grade Niobium concentrate for the next 15-16 years.

The resource in Kwale County is estimated to be worth about KES 250 billion (about US$2.5 billion) but has remained untapped mostly owing to political interference as well as dissent with the local community.

Cortec Kenya is expected to pay the Government a three per cent royalty on the gross sales of niobium and five per cent for rare earth as per its obtained permit.

- CAJ News



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