27th March 2019
By: A Trained artisanal Miner
Kitui County consists of rich geological basins that contain different types of minerals.
Example of this is the Mui basin that covers parts of Mwingi Central and Kitui East constituency respectively
This basin is relatively flat and has dense forests and well-developed river system. The basin is currently prominent due to the latest discovery of coal mineral and highly fertile soils that have boosted agriculture in the area.
Some of the wards in which the basin covers include Mui and Mutitu/Kaliku wards. In these wards, various river channels such as R. Thua and R. Mui traverse and these rivers are the major sources of water in these areas.
In this basin, besides, there exist extensive deposits of clay minerals and the most economic one is kaolin. Kaolin is usually white in colour, fine-grained and is an industrial mineral that mainly contains a hydrated aluminium silicate mineral known as kaolinite [AlSi2O5 (OH)4].
This kaolin is found in Kathonzweni village and Karung’ an all in Mui ward. Maluma area in Nzambani ward consists of this mineral type as well.
Kaolinite is produced by the chemical weathering of aluminium silicate minerals such as feldspar in igneous and metamorphic rocks under the influence of Carbon IV Oxide.
Pure forms of the mineral are white in colour but may depict yellow, blue or red-brown colours due to impurities.
These impurities such as iron are eradicated via the beneficiation process.
Figure 1: Kaolin mineral
Figure 2: Kaolin clay
Extraction of Kaolin
Surface mining methods such as open cast mining can be applied in the scooping of this mineral resource. Excavators can cut large blocks of the kaolin since it occurs 2m below the earth’s surface. This mineral can then be loaded into trucks which in turn haul the kaolin to industries for use.
Uses of Kaolin
Pulverized (ground) kaolin is used as a titanium oxide TiO2 extender and also in paints and ink, Calcined kaolin is used in PVC coatings in order to increase the opacity, tint strength and scrub resistance.
Delaminated kaolins give sheen and improve stain and mud cracking resistance, Used for making porcelains and also a raw material for the production of refractory materials in furnaces.
Used in cement, rubber and plastic industries and also as a filler in paper production, Impure forms of kaolin are used in making pottery and bricks, Coarse grains are used in making ceramics.
Kaolin is used in seed coating and pesticide control such as kaolin sprays all in agriculture, Kaolin is also used as a carrier and a chemical composite in fertilizers, Kaolin is applied in the medical and cosmetic industries.
The role of Kitui county government
The County government of kitui can mobilize groups of artisanal miners to participate in the extraction of this rich mineral.
The county government of Kitui in partnership with Kenya Eastern University (Seku university) has trained over 200 artisanal miners across the county and an extra number of artisanal miners are expected to be trained in a subsequent coming financial year, this was said by the governor Charity Ngilu.
Once these groups are trained and linked to various potential buyers through value addition, of this mineral-like making unique, artistic and marketable pottery products it will be of great social impact on them
Quantification can also be assessed in these areas in order to establish the suitability to set up a processing plant for this mineral.
With this initiative, agriculture will thrive and as a result, food security will be enhanced. This is due to the availability of reliable pest control and fertilizer products from kaolin.
Cost effective ceramics and paints will be available in Kitui County.
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