Among the minerals found in Kenya in significant quantities are soda ash (trona) around Lake Magadi, Fluorspar at Kimwarer in Kerio Valley as well as titanium in Kwale, Malindi and Lamu. There is potential for gold in Kakamega, Vihiga, Migori, Transmara, Bondo, Siaya, Pokot, Turkana and Nandi. Manganese ore occurs in Ganze and Mrima Hill at the Coast. Diatomite is found at Kariandusi near Gilgil, vermiculite on Kinyiki Hill, gypsum in El Wak, Garissa, Tana River, Kajiado and Turkana, natural carbon dioxide at Kereita in Kiambu, while a variety of gemstones are found in Taita, Kwale, Kitui, Mwingi, Kajiado, Isiolo, Pokot and Turkana.
Kenya also has plenty of minerals yet to be discovered or mined. Coal occurs in Mwingi and Mutito. Investigations are currently underway by the Ministries of Energy, Environment and Mineral Resources, to establish its viability for commercial exploitation. Iron ore occurs in parts of Taita, Meru, Kitui, Kilifi and Samia. Indeed, the recent discovery of oil and vast reserves of underground drinking water in Turkana, minerals at the Coast and in the Rift Valley is an indication of the treasure trove that lies below the earth. The quantity of minerals produced increased by 13.0 per cent from 1,496,000 tonnes in 2010 to 1,690,300 thousand tonnes in 2011. Production of soda ash increased by 5.4 per cent from 473,700 tonnes to 499,100 tonnes over the period and fluorspar from 40,800 tonnes to 95,100 tonnes, mainly because of improved export prices.
Production of diatomite more than trebled in 2011 as a result of expanded markets in South Africa and Uganda. Crude salt increased from 6,200 tonnes in 2010 to 24,600 tonnes in 2011 and the volume of gemstones almost doubled, mainly because of increased demand of low grade sapphires and corundum/ruby gemstones by Thailand and India. Gold production declined from 2.4 to 1.6 tonnes over the period mainly due to heavy rains in Lolgorian in Transmara and Kehancha in Kuria. Total earnings from minerals rose by 21.1 per cent from Kshs15.1 billion ($177.6 million) in 2010 to Ksh18.3 billion ($215.3 million) in 2011 because of high export and domestic prices. Soda ash, gold and fluorspar accounted for 92.7 per cent of the 2011 earnings Prospecting for minerals went into high gear in 2011. Foreign companies submitted applications to excavate titanium in Kwale County, thought to have 10 per cent of the world’s titanium deposits.
Two companies, Base Titanium, and Cortec Mining have been cleared to extract titanium and nobium, respectively. Base intends to invest Kshs22.5 billion ($265 million) in the project and expects to earn Kenya Kshs13.5 billion ($158.8 million) annually and create 1,000 job opportunities. Cortec says Kenya has the potential to be among the world’s largest producers of nobium, used in the manufacture of steel. Kwale is also awash with illumenite, rutile and zircon. Other minerals include ruby, emerald, tourmaline, biotite, calcite, aegirine, and beryl.
The Government has revised its Mining Act into the new Mining and Minerals Act that requires all prospecting licences to have an initial duration of four years. Renewals are granted to up to seven years in total, plus provisions. Exploration licences are transferable.