Kwale titanium mine to close at end of year

30th January 2024

By: Darren Parker

Creamer Media Contributing Editor Online


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African mineral sands producer Base Resources has confirmed that its Kwale titanium mining operation in Kenya will come to an end at the end of the year.

In an operational, development and corporate update for the quarter ended December 31, 2023, the company said that, upon completion of an evaluation of the two remaining near mine prospective areas, being the Kwale North Dune mineral resource, which is not currently in the mine plan, and the Kwale East exploration area, it was concluded that both lack sufficient grade or scale to support an extension of mining operations beyond December.

The mine was also negatively impact by poor prices during the quarter, with the company noting that prices for all products softened owing to ongoing economic uncertainties and sluggish demand across key markets.

The Kwale South and North Dunes continued to be mined concurrently during the quarter, with two hydraulic mining units operating in each area. The mined tonnage of 3.9-million tonnes was slightly lower than the 4.1-million tonnes achieved in the preceding quarter, owing to mining of the remnant parts of the South Dune ore reserves and stoppages caused by heavy rains, with 340 mm of rain received over four days in early November. 

The South Dune ore reserves were fully depleted subsequent to quarter end in mid-January, with mining operations currently being relocated to the Bumamani deposit over a planned three-week period.

Consistent with the mine plan, the 2.2% heavy mineral grade of ore mined in the quarter was lower than the 2.5% from the previous quarter. The grade and volume of ore mined in the quarter, together with a slight drop in concentrator recoveries, resulted in reduced heavy mineral concentrate (HMC) production of 67 500 t, down from 84 800 t in the quarter before. 

At these lower ore grades and HMC production rates, Base Minerals said that the mineral separation plant (MSP) continued to be operated on a campaign basis to ensure optimum product recoveries were maintained, with extended shutdowns between campaigns to allow HMC stocks to rebuild. The HMC fed to the MSP in the quarter was 71 400 t, just shy of the 71 600 t achieved in the previous quarter, as HMC stocks were drawn down.

Meanwhile, deposition of sand tails into the mined-out North Dune pit P199 continued, with sand tails also continuing to be deposited on the mined-out Central Dune area. 

To aid water retention and subsequent rehabilitation, the sand tails have been capped with a 4 m to 6 m codisposed slimes/sand layer. Rehabilitation activities on the Central Dune, South Dune and North Dune were continued in accordance with the company’s rehabilitation plan, with rehabilitation activities for the entire South Dune mining area expected to be largely complete by June.

The heavy rains experienced in November facilitated the planting of an additional 25 000 trees during the quarter, bringing the total number of trees planted to 110 000.

Meanwhile, at Base Minerals’ Toliara project in Madagascar, engagement with the government on the project’s fiscal terms and lifting of the project’s on-ground suspension has been reinitiated, with the government indicating that finalising terms and launching the project is a priority.

This comes after Madagascar’s presidential elections in November, which saw Andry Rajoelina re-elected for a second term, with the incumbent Mines and Strategic Resources Minister being re-appointed.

Base Minerals said that the Toliara project Monazite prefeasibility study (PFS) has completed, significantly enhancing the overall forecast financial returns from the project.

For an additional estimated capital expenditure of $71-million, the Monazite PFS outcomes include an incremental post-tax/pre-debt real net present value, at a 10% discount rate, of $1-billion and an internal rate of return of 79% over a 38-year life-of-mine.

Edited by Chanel de Bruyn
Creamer Media Senior Deputy Editor Online




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