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Mining firm confirms big mineral deposits at Mrima Hill

NAIROBI (Xinhua) -- Cortec Mining Kenya Ltd on Friday said Mrima Hill in southwest Kenya has one of the largest mineral deposits in the world with a potential in-ground value of up to 62. 4 billion U.S. dollars.

Standing beside the deposit’s Niobium content, valued at 35 billion contained metal, the lab results confirm the hill as Kenya’s largest mineral deposit.

"This is by far the largest mineral deposit in Kenya and the find at Mrima Hill will place Kenya as having the potential to be one of the largest rare earth producers in the world," the firm’s MD David Anderson said in Nairobi.

Mrima Hill’s rare earth deposit is targeted at approximately 40 million tonnes with a concentration of approximately five per cent Total Rare Earth Oxides,

Having recently appeared on the energy radar, Kenya and the entire East Africa region has quickly become a hot spot for commercially viable oil and gas discoveries.

The East African nation has also a huge mineral potential but its exploration efforts have only picked in the last 5 years with the awarding of commercial licences in prospecting for oil, gold, coal, geothermal and rare earths.

The latest development comes after the mining firm said that private investors are set to establish a 200 million U.S. dollars Niobium mineral ore processing plant in Kenya by the end of third quarter of 2014.

Anderson said on Monday that the company is currently in the design stage of the plant, which will be located in mineral rich Kwale County in southwest Kenya.

"Phase one will consist of a 200 million dollars mining facility which is expected to generate over 300 million dollars in royalties’ and taxes to the Kenyan government over the next 15 years," Anderson said.

He said that the plant is expected to process up to 720,000 tones of the mineral ore annually. "The expected output is 3,000 tones of Niobium concentrate," he said.

Cortec, which holds the mining licence for Mrima Hill, has also confirmed a deposit of 680 m kg of Niobium, held in 105 million tonnes at 0.7 percent Niobium Pentoxide.

The global demand for Niobium, used to strengthen steels, is rising rapidly, with Mrima Hill now positioned in the world’s top six deposits.

The Kenyan government will receive 3 per cent royalties from the Niobium project and 5 per cent in royalties from the rare earths mining.

An agreed 80 percent of the royalties will go to the central government, 15 percent to Kwale County and 5 percent to local residents.

"Upon commencement of mining at Mrima significant funds from the government royalty will be allocated to the Kwale County for use in various community infrastructure projects," Anderson said.

Rare earths are vital in manufacturing high-tech electronics products, such as specialized miniature nuclear batteries, high power magnets, LED lighting, super conductors and miniature magnets.

The East Africa region is emerging as a new hub for mining in the continent due to the recent mineral discoveries and interest it’s attracting from international investors.

Kenyan officials noted that the mining industry in the region is undergoing a period of exuberance on the account of the overall growth of the East African economy driven primarily by the increase of activities in mining and national infrastructural investment.

"In the last few years, the East Africa region has attracted a lot of interest from investors in the mining industry," said an official of the Ministry of Mining.

"The region has immense mineral resources such as titanium, gold, rare earth and niobium, coal, iron ore, manganese, gemstones and limestone which when harnessed properly, can be a key contributor to the GDP’s of the individual countries," the official added.

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