Australian mining company, Base Titanium in Kwale County has hinted that they have only six weeks left to determine their extended mining life in the region.
The company recently sounded an alarm that its exploration window to find new mineral deposits is closing down as several challenges have slowed the process.
Despite government assurance that the company’s licenses will be renewed, the management said if the exercise fails they will shut operations in December 2024.
The company’s External Affairs General Manager Simon Wall said some families have refused to give consent for the exploration and some drilling must be done in public compounds such as schools and roads which is a long process to get the approval.
“We don’t know whether the mineralogy will support the mine life or not, unless we complete the exploration process because we are running out of time,” he said.
He said the remaining 1.5 percent of the families have their constitutional rights to disagree and the consent has to be provided freely and informed.
He, however, said further delays are reducing the chances of exploring mineral deposits to extend mining operations since they are rushing against time.
Base Titanium has been running exploration programs since last year and have drilled about 1100 holes to identify whether there are viable minerals that can prolong mining life.
The are intending to start phase two of the program which targets to have 400-500 holes drilled within the shortest period not later than mid September.
The second phase will comprise use of sophisticated drilling machine (air core drilling) for finer details and accuracy of mineral sampling.
The machine will be imported from Zambia, according to Wall it drills deeper.
Wall said for Base to extend mine life, they have to do the analysis, preparatory work, design and set infrastructure soon enough and can only be done if the exploration process is a success.
He said they are also not sure whether the minerals will be found near the existing mine operations referred to as Kwale east or not.
Wall said another challenge is the moratorium in place which is affecting the renewal of mining licence.
He said the company applied for various prospecting licences in Lamu and Kuranze to determine minerals but up to date no approval.
Wall said even if the government approves the licences now and minerals are found, it would be almost impossible for the company to set up infrastructure because of time bar since it requires a lot time and resources.
He said if the exploration proves to be successful Base Titanium would be required to transition to a mining licence issued under the 2016 mining act, raising concerns on how long the government will take to do that since time is of great essence.
Wall said transition and getting all the necessary licenses will take years but the company looks forward to working with the national government through the state department of mineral and county leadership to ensure the process is shortened.
The External Affairs General Manager said Base is very focused in exploring and discovering additional minerals near the existing mine site to continue benefiting the communities through employment and corporate Social Responsibility programs and revenue to the government.
“We remain optimistic to find minerals in Kwale so that we keep thousands of employees and provide livelihoods and opportunities for our community,” he said.
He said when the opportunity presents itself for Base to turn on other minerals, they are more than willing to partner with the government and bring new projects online.
Wall also admitted that the company started on a wrong foot but over the years they have worked to strengthen community relationships.
He hailed the massive support given by the community who willingly gave their lands for the exploration exercise in bid to extend mining life.
County Commissioner Mwangi Meru said the government appreciates work done by Base Titanium and supports mine operations.
He said the government and various partners will have discussions with the remaining families and hear their side as to why they oppose extension of mining life to help in coming up with a suitable solution.
Meru said the government is keen on protecting the rights of both the investors and the community living around.
“That one percent of the people is very important, let’s listen to them and inquire why they are holding back,” he said.
County Executive for Environment and Natural Resources Saum Beja Mahaja said the county is committed to give Base the required support to extend their stay in Kwale.
She said they are working on giving the company consent for them to conduct explorations in public institutions and property owned by the county government.
“We will have a meeting with the cabinet to see if we can approve your proposal of drilling holes in the stated key areas,” she said.
County assembly environment committee member James Dawa said most of the community are reluctant because of lack of awareness.
He said some fear possible relocations because they don’t want to leave their ancestral land while others are driven by rumors spread by the previously relocated people who recklessly spent their money.
“Most of these people are not informed about the benefits of minerals and how their life will change and some people incite them,” he said.