Aerial mapping of minerals to end next month


Petroleum PS Andrew Kamau. FILE PHOTO | NMG

A nationwide aerial survey to map Kenya’s mineral deposits, tipped to act as a catalyst for foreign investment, will be completed next month.

Petroleum and Mining PS Andrew Kamau said data from the survey would make it easier to attract investors to a sector that has been neglected by successive governments.

Investor appetite for new frontier markets has revived interest in Kenya’s mining potential, although few foreign companies have invested significant sums in its mines.

“An aerial mapping to determine the country’s mineral wealth was 50 per cent complete, with the exercise expected to be wound by June this year,’’ said Mr Kamau at a mining forum.

He said that only four per cent of the country had been mapped before the start of the aerial survey — which will determine the location and size of potential mineral wealth.

Kenya has proven deposits of titanium, gold and coal and is also understood to hold significant deposits of copper, niobium, manganese and rare earth minerals.

Mineral Rights Board chairman Stephen Kuria said at the forum that the untapped mineral sector has the potential of earning the country $6.6 billion (Sh719.4 billion) or 12 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) from the minerals sector.

The sector currently contributes less than one per cent to the GDP.

According to the Economic Survey, total earnings from mineral production declined 5.5 per cent in 2019 to Sh29.1 billion from Sh30.8 billion in 2018.

Most of Kenya’s mines remain small-scale projects, and mineral smuggling, especially in gold abetted by foreign merchants is on the rise.

“Kenya can borrow a leaf from countries like Tanzania, South Africa, Ghana and Australia, which have created unique law enforcers who concentrate on illegal smuggling of gold and gemstones,” Mr Kuria said.

“Kenya is largely under-explored and this whole mineral potential is still unknown.”