Counties

Australian manganese miner eyes bigger space in Taita Taveta

mark

Universal Resources International Limited CEO Mark Stephenson. FILE PHOTO | NMG

Summary

  • A manganese mining company is seeking to expand its operational area in Taita Taveta County as plans to kick off the extraction of the ore continue.
  • The Australian mining company had planned to start mining in 2020 but the plans were disrupted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that had brought the world to a standstill.
  • The firm aims to extract and export over 100,000 tonnes of raw pure manganese ore annually at its current mining area.

A manganese mining company is seeking to expand its operational area in Taita Taveta County as plans to kick off the extraction of the ore continue.

Universal Resources International Limited is expected to start mining at its current licensed area in Mariwenyi, Mwatate sub-county after many years of prospecting and infrastructure development.

The Australian mining company had planned to start mining in 2020 but the plans were disrupted by the outbreak of the Covid-19 pandemic that had brought the world to a standstill.

Currently, the investor holds a 25-year mining licence from 2019 in Mariwenyi Mbambarenyi, Kalambe and Mwangea areas where it is planning to commence extraction of the manganese ore in August this year. The mining licence covers a two square kilometre area.

The firm aims to extract and export over 100,000 tonnes of raw pure manganese ore annually at its current mining area. It is now seeking to extend it to 300 square kilometres at Ndara B ranch.

The company's director, Steve Kimanyi said they have been prospecting for more minerals in the ranch that neighbours their licenced area.

To extend its mining area, the company has already initiated talks with Ndara B ranch to get its consent as it plans to expand operations once it exhausts the ores in the current licensed area.

"We want to expand our mine and we are in the process of signing an agreement with the ranch," Mr Kimanyi said.

He said there were adequate manganese ore deposits that could see the company seek approvals from the landowners and the government to extend their operations to the areas.

Mr Kimanyi said they are in talks with the ranch's leadership to seek their consent as they work towards extending the area that is not covered by their current mining licence.

"According to the pre-feasibility study to determine the economic viability of the site, the new location has reserves worth millions of metric tonnes which we want to exploit," he said.

According to earlier research conducted by the mining company, the quantity of manganese ore deposits found in Mariwenyi area can be extracted for 50-100 years.

Over 30 families whose land was acquired to pave way for the extraction have already agreed with the investor that they would get at least 1 per cent of the total sales every month.

Last year, the company's CEO Mark Stephenson said the company had already pumped over Sh600 million into the project and was planning to invest Sh2.2 billion more.

The manganese project is also expected to benefit the local community, and the national and county government through the royalties paid by the company.

From the project, the government is set to get monthly royalties of up to Sh98 million.

Ndara B group ranch mining sub-committee chairperson Bwanaheri Kalela said they are in talks with the company to come to an agreement before they give their consent.

"We will give our consent once we agree on some of the issues. We are welcoming investors to help us exploit the minerals within our ranch," he said.

The 6,000-acre ranch is also endowed with other industrial minerals including iron ore and limestone.

[email protected]