By Primrose Omoto
Base Titanium, a world-class mineral sands operator, has announced that it will decommission its mining operations in Kwale East and effectively end all mining operations in December 2024.
Base Titanium is Kenya’s largest mine, celebrated for the safety practices of its flagship operation, the Kwale Project, a part of Kenya’s Vision 2030.
The company has been exporting minerals abroad.
It successfully determined that current mineral reserves in the Kinondo Kwale Mine have a limited operational life.
At the end of 2024, the reserves will be depleted, products sold and the mine will close.
Base Titanium will continue to identify additional mineral deposits that may exist in close proximity to the existing operation according to the company’s external affairs general manager Simon Wall.
“Exploration is the future of mining in Kwale County. The company will continue to operate in the industry as an exploration company,” explained Simon Wall, adding that “Exploration is a 12-month process that determines the viability of a location for profitable mining.”he said
The closure of a mining company will have significant impacts on the surrounding community and environment since a lot of jobs will be lost as well as business opportunities that have existed for decades since mining and exportation started in 2013.
Simon said that the company is committed to sustainable mining practices and has been working towards minimizing and mitigating the impacts of mining operations.
“The company’s rehabilitation and restoration programs are aimed at returning the land disturbed by mining activities to a degree of its former state. The company’s initiative to use the byproducts of the mining process to develop a water retention plant is a step towards sustainable mining practices,” Simon Wall revealed.
Speaking when he addressed the media at Diani Reef Beach Hotel, he said that the company’s decision to decommission its mining operations in Kwale East is a significant development for the mining industry in Kenya and will have a significant impact on the local community.
The inevitable result is the loss of employment opportunities for over 1500 workers from the local community.
To mitigate that effect Simon said that the company out of its goodwill for the community, the company will host a career fair to connect its current 1500 employees to future employers hence reducing the risk of joblessness.
“We have trained our employees sufficiently and they are competent in all aspects of their job as far as mining is concerned,” he added.
Base Titanium has been funding scholarship programs designed to give opportunities to academically gifted students from disadvantaged backgrounds .i.e. Hatua Likoni, Pepea and Ummah Initiative Group.
“Students in scholarship programs sponsored by the company will finish their studies. However, the intake of new applicants has been stopped due to the consequential decrease in available funding,” Simon Wall said.
The rehabilitation and restoration of the land disturbed by mining activities is a crucial step towards mitigating the environmental impacts of mining.
Base Titanium is yet to announce plans of how it shall rehabilitate the 4000 hectares of land it occupies.
“There are three possibilities. Agriculture, afforestation, or leasing the buildings to vocational training institutes,” Simon Wall said.
Locals have expressed concerns over the plan for Base to close its mining activities with others praising the move while others saying it is going to affect them.
Grace Mbithi, one of Masindeni residents said that many families will be affected due to the lack of jobs and businesses once Base closes shop.
She called on the national government to cooperate with the mining company and ensure that they have new mining areas to minimize the effects.
She said that about 70 per cent of workers have built rental houses in Ukunda town while 30 per cent are renting.
That she said is something to think about since the tourists town business will be affected
“Exploration in Magaoni, Zigira and Masindeni should have been done together with Mwaloya where the company is mining now instead of splitting it. This we are sure is one of the reasons we are facing this problem,“ she claimed.
She claimed that some people failed the company, forcing it to start preparing to bring its operation to an end in December 2024.
For Mohamed Mbwana, one of the Zigira residents, he celebrated the company’s announcement saying that they will now breathe a sigh of relief.
“We are happy because we will remain in our land and our generation as well. We did not want to leave,” he told Coast Times digital.
He criticizes those claiming that jobs will be lost saying that land is inadequate unlike jobs that can be created.
Mohamed said that in case the minerals will be mined in the area locals must be given alternative land instead of being paid peanuts to buy alternative land.
“Base was offering to buy our land and that is something that we did not want. We want whoever will want to do mining to ensure they provide alternative land and compensate for land so that we can agree to move out. This is because land is not enough,” he said.