British exploration firm Acacia Mining has discovered gold deposits worth an estimated Sh165 billion in Kakamega County, boosting Kenya’s rising profile as a mineral-rich economy.
The estimated deposits of about 1.31 million ounces of gold, at 12.1 grammes per tonne, could be one of the exploration firm’s highest grade projects in Africa if proved to be commercially viable.
The London-listed company Monday said exploration activities are ongoing to determine the commercial viability of the deposits before an investment decision is made.
Acacia Mining Exploration Manager Tim Sharp said it will take up to three years to complete the drilling and studies required so that the decision to proceed to gold mining can be made.
“It is certainly a significant step for us but the decision as to whether we move to mining will depend on whether it turns out to be commercially viable. We have a lot more work to do before we get there, which may take at least five years from now,” said Mr Sharp at a media briefing Monday.
The firm, which has been operating in Tanzania, Burkina Faso and Mali hopes to make more discoveries to boost the commercial viability of the precious resource.
The Liranda Corridor covers a seven-kilometre square within Acacia’s West Kenya project, touching the four counties of Siaya, Kakamega, Kisumu and Vihiga.
Acacia Mining has since produced over eight million ounces of gold from open pit and underground mines in Tanzania’s mines in North Mara, Bulyanhulu and Buzwagi.
Mining Secretary Dan Kazungu lauded the discovery saying it demonstrates Kenya’s rich mineral potential with huge economic value.
“This only confirms that Kenya is geologically endowed and we are going to take several reforms to boost the mining industry and make it the next revenue frontier and a top income earner for this country. We will continue working on the mapping of all our mineral deposits to boost investment in the sector with huge unexplored potential. We look forward to work with Acacia and welcome their continued interest in Kenya,” said Mr Kazungu.
Acacia, which first started operating in Kenya since 2012, says it has invested Sh3 billion in exploration works covering 2,800 square kilometres.
The firm recently increased its exploration budget for Kenya to Sh1.2 billion, with the bulk of the cash now expected to be spent on the Liranda project.
Goldplat, another UK-based exploration firm that acquired a mining licence in 2011, operating in Migori County as Kilimapesa mines, has been in loss-making territory. It has been under Kenya Revenue Authority scrutiny over tax compliance issues.
The miner suspended operations in 2013 and later resumed operations but is still in loss making. It reported a Sh91.7 million loss in 2016, an improvement from Sh97.1 million reported in 2015.
The firm recently commissioned a new plant in the in Narok County that could raise its annual production to nearly 200 kilos (worth about Sh900 million).