The Irish company Kenmare Resources, which is mining the titanium-bearing heavy mineral sands in Moma, on the coast of the northern Mozambican province of Nampula, shipped record levels of ilmenite and zircon in the second quarter (Q2) of 2016.
In a statement released on Tuesday, the company revealed that during Q2 ilmenite production increased by 18 per cent to 217,900 tonnes (compared with 185,000 tonnes in Q1). Zircon production rose to 16,900 tonnes, an increase of 46 per cent.
A record volume was exported during the quarter. This was because bad weather during the Q1 delayed two shipments into April. As a result, in Q2 Kenmare shipped 309,020 tonnes of minerals, comprised of 291,628 tonnes of ilmenite, 15,682 tonnes of zircon, and 1,709 tonnes of rutile.
Ilmenite (iron titanium oxide) and rutile (titanium dioxide) are used to make white pigments for paints, paper, and plastic. Titanium can be extracted from these ores and used to manufacture metallic parts where light weight and high strength are needed. Zircon (zirconium silicate) is used for abrasive and insulating purposes.
The higher production along with increases in the international prices for the minerals is improving the company’s finances. According to Kenmare’s managing director Michael Carvill, “the strengthening of the balance sheet, allied with falling cash costs and consistent productivity gains at Moma, positions Kenmare to benefit from the improvement in the titanium feedstock market we are currently experiencing as higher ilmenite prices are reflected in revenues for the second half of 2016”.
The company also reported that the mine has continued to experience stability in the quality and reliability of the electricity supply as the result of the additional transmission capacity commissioned by the publicly-owned electricity company EDM.
It added that the electricity generation capacity in northern Mozambique has been increased by EDM. Since April, a Turkish floating power station has been docked in the port of Nacala. It burns heavy fuel oil to generate 110 megawatts of electricity for EDM.
The purpose of the power station is to guarantee the power supply to northern Mozambique for the next two years. In addition, the supply from this station allows EDM to sell power to Zambia from the Cahora Bassa dam in the western province of Tete.
The floating power station ends northern Mozambique’s reliance on Cahora Bassa. In January 2015, major flooding on the Licungo River, in Zambezia province, swept away ten pylons on the line from Cahora Bassa and cut power supplies to the three northern provinces of Nampula, Niassa and Cabo Delgado, and to the northern districts of Zambezia. It took a month before normal power was restored to the north.