By George Obulutsa
NAIROBI (Reuters) – Australia’s Base Resources expects its ilmenite output in Kenya to fall by 8-14 percent this financial year but does not foresee disruption in the run-up to next month’s national election, it said on Thursday.
Base said that output of the commodity mined for titanium dioxide production and used as a base pigment in paint, paper and plastics will be between 400,000 tonnes and 430,000 tonnes in the year to June 30, 2018, compared with 467,359 tonnes the previous year.
Production of rutile, used in refractory ceramics and as a pigment, is expected to be 88,000-94,000 tonnes, from 90,625 tonnes. Zircon output, meanwhile, is forecast at 32,000-37,000 tonnes, against 34,228 tonnes.
“In the future … we will start moving into the lower-grade areas. Thus, for the given tonnage of ore, the amount of heavy mineral concentrate will reduce, thereby reducing the amount of ilmenite, rutile and zircon that we produce,” Joe Schwarz, Base Titanium’s general manager for external affairs, said in a conference call with reporters.
Zircon is used to make ceramic tiles and in refractories, foundries and chemicals.
Base Titanium, Kenya’s first large-scale international mining project, shipped its first consignment of minerals in February 2014 after years of delay.
The $305 million project is viewed as a major part of Kenya’s plans to boost its relatively modest and undeveloped mining sector.
Schwarz said he does not expect Base Titanium’s operations to be affected by the Aug. 8 election, when Kenyans will elect a president, parliament and local authorities.
Many investors and consumers have been taking a wait-and-see stance on concerns over the potential for election-related violence.
“We are not scaling down,” Schwarz said. “Operations continue as normal. Obviously we do monitor the security situation and we are not seeing any risks at this time.”
(Reporting by George Obulutsa; Editing by Aaron Maasho and David Goodman)