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Titanium Mining in the Kwale District, Kenya


After years of negotiations, the Government of Kenya approved the project presented by the Canadian company Tiomin Resources Inc. for the exploitation of titanium deposits located in the Kwale region. A coalition formed of local communities and human rights organizations called Coast Mining Rights Forum opposed the mega-project, as it called for the displacement of 5,000 indigenous Digo and Kamba people and would contaminate local soil and aquifers with heavy metals. In 2008-09, the Tiomin company tried to sell the rights to Jinchuan, a Chinese company. The project, started in 2013, led to forced displacements.

In February 2014, it was reported that Kenya had joined the league of mineral exporters with the first shipment of 25,000 tonnes of ilmenite to China, from Kwale Mineral Sands Project, owned by Base Titanium. The firm, the Kenyan subsidiary of the Australian company Base Resources, was granted an export licence.

Base Titanium made its first shipment of 25,000 tonnes of ilmenite — one of the major components found in the Titanium mineral ore — to China. Rough estimates show that 250,000 tonnes of Titanium ores will be eported per year from Kwale while some 3.2 billion tonnes of the same mineral deposits can be found in Kilifi area. The Kwale Sands is the first large mining development in Kenya since 1911.

Basic Data

Name of conflict:Titanium Mining in the Kwale District, Kenya
State or province:Coast
Location of conflict:Kwale
Accuracy of locationHIGH (Local level)

Source of Conflict

Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Land acquisition conflicts
Specific commodities:Titanium ores

Project Details and Actors

Project details

Yearly extraction of 330 000 tons of ilmenite, plus rutile and zircon. This project for mining mineral sands is geared to production of titanium.

The Kwale project is estimated to be worth approximately US$ 47 million per year.

Ilmenite would be mined to a depth of 30 meters.

The deposit contained 309 ppm of uranium and 143 ppm of thorium, potentially dangerous for health.

Tiomin Resources Inc., the Canadian firm that owns Tiomin Kenya Limited, offered compensation of US$120 and US$30 per hectare transferred and rented, respectively. Since 2009, Tiomin Kenya Limited was owned up to 70% by the Chinese mining conglomerate Jinchuan.

It is finally Base Resources Limited (Australia) which in 2013 kicked off the project.

Investment of perhaps 35 billion KES (Kenyan shillings), equal US350 million.

Project area:6400
Level of Investment:350,000,000
Type of populationRural
Start of the conflict:2000
Company names or state enterprises:Tiomin Resources Inc from Canada
Jinchuan Group Co. Ltd from China
Base Resources Limited from Australia
Relevant government actors:Kenyan Government, NEMA - Kenya
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:CRF - Kenya, Kwale Farmers Movement - Kenya, ActionAid Kenya

Conflict & Mobilization

IntensityMEDIUM (street protests, visible mobilization)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Farmers
Indigenous groups or traditional communities
Social movements
Forms of mobilization:Blockades
Lawsuits, court cases, judicial activism
Official complaint letters and petitions
Public campaigns
Street protest/marches


Environmental ImpactsVisible: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Noise pollution, Soil contamination, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Potential: Air pollution, Food insecurity (crop damage), Genetic contamination, Global warming, Soil erosion, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Health ImpactsVisible: Malnutrition
Potential: Accidents, Exposure to unknown or uncertain complex risks (radiation, etc…), Occupational disease and accidents, Deaths
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Loss of livelihood, Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Land dispossession, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Potential: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights


Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Compensation
Court decision (failure for environmental justice)
Development of alternatives:The residents want to retrieve of their lands or a higher compensation, and the NGOs dont want the project because it would pollute the area and it is potentially dangerous for peoples health.
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Briefly explain:The Government of Kenya allowed the company Tiomin to grab the lands of native people and the project was planned to start without an EIA undertaken by Kenyan specialists. In 2014, exports to China of ilmenite sands for titanium started.

Sources & Materials

Related laws and legislations - Juridical texts related to the conflict

Land Acquisition Act.

Mining Act

References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

L'Africa del tesoro. Masto, Raffaele. Ed. Sperling and Kupfer. 2006.

Base Resources project in Kwale

What in a Coconut? An Ethnoecological Analysis of Mining, Social Displacement, Vulnerability, and Development in Rural Kenya, Africa, W. O. Abuya, African Studies Quaterly, November 2013

Newspaper reports February 2014, first exports of ilmenite sands from Kwale for titanium, to China.

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Tiomin confident of $200m titanium deal in Kenya, Daily Nation, November 2008

Kenya: Canadian titanium mining challenged by new government, World Rainforest Movement, April 2003

County mining tax plans anger Kenya government, Business Daily, 15/10/2014

Court restrains agency from licensing Tiomin, MAC, 03/03/2003

Kwale mineral sands project suffering delays in troubled Kenya, budget cut, Mining weekly, January 2008

Meta information

Contributor:Lucie Greyl
Last update30/12/2015



The Base Resources titanium mining site in Kwale

businessdailyafrica Photo/FILE