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Economy

Titanium shipments drop 18pc for first time since 2014

Titanium ore is mined by Australian firm Base Resources in the coastal town of Kwale. FILE PHOTO | nmg
Titanium ore is mined by Australian firm Base Resources in the coastal town of Kwale. FILE PHOTO | nmg 

Titanium exports fell 18.7 per cent in the three months to September 2017,  the first third-quarter drop since shipments started in 2014.

Official data shows that Kenya earned Sh2.6 billion from titanium sales in the July-September period, down from Sh3.2 billion in a similar trading window of 2016.

Titanium ore, which is mined by Australian firm Base Resources in the coastal town of Kwale, is used as an alloy with other metals to produce lightweight metals for jet engines.

China is the largest importer of the Kwale titanium, which is now Kenya’s top mineral earner ahead of gold.

The mineral fetched the local economy Sh3.1 billion in the first quarter of 2017 and rose to Sh4 billion in the second quarter to June before sliding to Sh2.6 billion in the third quarter, according to latest data from Kenya National Bureau of Statistics.

Kenyan government earns royalties from the mineral whose extraction started in October 2013 and exports in February 2014. Records show that it has received Sh1 billion in royalties from the mining firm over the past four years.

Titanium dislodged soda ash from the pole position of Kenya’s highest mineral earner in 2014.

Revenue from soda ash, however, rose 63 per cent to Sh1.8 billion in the July-September window, narrowing the gap with titanium.

President Uhuru Kenyatta created the Mining ministry in 2013 to better exploit the sector and wean Kenya off its high dependence on agriculture, which now accounts for about a third of the country’s wealth.

Australia’s Base Resources faced delays since 2006 due to financing constraints, government bureaucracy and disputes with environmentalists and the neighbouring community.

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