MOMBASA, Kenya Jan 7 (Reuters) - Kenya's first exports of titanium minerals will be shipped this month from its biggest mine, with sales amounting to $4 million in January and February, mine operator Base Resources said on Tuesday.
Kenya's first large-scale international mining project began production in October after being delayed since 2006 due to cash constraints, environmentalist protests, compensation disputes with local farmers and government red tape.
The $305 million project is seen as integral to Kenya's plans to derive a bigger share of earnings from its relatively modest mining sector.
Joe Schwarz, general manager for external affairs and development at Australian miner Base Resources, said the first export shipment would be a containerised consignment of 100 tonnes of rutile, which would be followed by ilmenite in February.
The exports are awaiting permits from the Kenya government.
"The initial containerised consignment is being exported to Japan. Other destinations include the U.S., Europe, China and the Middle East," Schwarz said in an emailed statement.
He said that indicative market prices for titanium minerals from the mine were $180 per tonne for ilmenite, $1,200 per tonne for rutile and $1,000 per tonne for zircon.
Some 330,000 tonnes of ilmenite a year, about 10 percent of world supply, will be produced at the mine, which is located south of the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa.
The mine will also churn out 80,000 tonnes of rutile per year, or about 14 percent of global output, and 30,000 tonnes of zircon. The minerals are used as pigments in paper, plastics, ceramics and titanium metal. (Writing by James Macharia; editing by Jane Baird)