MOMBASA, Jan 1 (Reuters) - Australian miner Base Resources expects to start exporting titanium from Kenya’s biggest mine in February, the company said on Wednesday, opening up a lucrative revenue source after years of delays.
Kenya’s first large-scale international mining project began production in October, after being delayed since 2006 due to financing constraints, environmentalist protests, compensation disputes with local farmers and government red tape.
Some 330,000 tonnes of ilmenite a year, about 10 percent of world supply, will be produced at the mine, located south of the Indian Ocean port city of Mombasa.
The mine will also churn out 80,000 tonnes of rutile per year, representing 14 percent of global output, and a further 30,000 tonnes of zircon. The minerals are used as pigment in paper, plastics, ceramics and titanium metal.
Joe Schwarz, Base Resources general manager for external affairs and development, said on Wednesday that the company was awaiting the outcome of an application for an export permit from Kenya’s mining ministry.
Base Resources previously said it expected exports to start in December.
Schwarz said the first shipment would comprise rutile, a mineral used in the manufacture of electronic appliances. It will go out as containerized cargo from Mombasa to Japan.
“We do have international customers already lined up apart from Japan, in far flung nations of the USA, Europe, China and the Middle East,” Schwarz said in a company statement.
He said another 25,000 metric tonnes of ilmenite would be also shipped in February, and that the company expected to send out about 15 bulk shipments each year.
Kenya, east Africa’s largest economy, is seeking to derive a bigger share of earnings from its relatively modest and undeveloped mining sector, and the launch of the flagship $305 million mining project is seen as integral to that plan. (Editing by Drazen Jorgic and Catherine Evans)