Mrima Hill area is the gazetted niobium well in Kenya. Cortec Mining Kenya (CMK) had secured a three-year extension for its rare earths and niobium minerals prospecting license in December 2011 in the area.CMK is 70 per cent owned by Canadian firm, Pacific Wildcat resources (PAW).
According to PAW, production of niobium is set to begin in 2016.Output once in full capacity is expected to reach 2,900 metric tonnes to 3,600 metric tonnes an year. The deposit is expected to hold the world’s sixth-largest reserve of the rare metal and has an initial mine life of 16-18 years.
In a Kenya Gazette notice dated March 7, the firm was issues with a fresh mining license that cut its prospecting area to about 351.1 acres in the Mrima Hills area. The license also spilt the 351.1 acre piece of land into 47 specific spots in which the firm would carry out its prospecting and mining activities.
Niobium is a metal used in the production of steel, rocket turbines, magnets, car parts, television set elements, lamp filaments and jewellery. Only few countries in the world among them Brazil, Canada, Australia, Rwanda, Ethiopia, Burundi and Mozambique produce the metal.
Rare earths are used in the manufacture of high-tech electronic products like super conductors, miniature magnets among others. Niobium is used in high-temperature alloys for jet engines and to strengthen steel for cars, buildings and oil pipelines. Alloys from niobium and steel are also used in the creation of welding rods and several stainless steel products used in homes. Niobium has also become popular in the production of optical lenses.
Analysis of the results of the latest holes drilled by two South Africa firms prospecting for niobium and rare earths in Mrima, Kwale County show that the high grade niobium and rare earth minerals extend beyond 100 metres below the surface.
PAW had announced plans to raise up to Sh497 million to fund its exploration activities in Kenya and Mozambique.