The Irish company Kenmare Resources on 13 January reported that last year it produced record levels of titanium minerals and zircon at its mine at Moma, on the coast of the northern Mozambican province of Nampula.
During 2021 the mine produced a record 1.12 million tonnes of ilmenite, which was a 48 per cent increase on 2020. It also increased the output of zircon to 56,300 tonnes, a thirty per cent growth over the previous year. Rutile production was up by 48 per cent to 8,900 tonnes.
The company also set a record for safety at the mine with no time being lost due to workers being injured during the year to 6 January 2022.
The benefits of the increased production were boosted by higher average prices for all of its products during 2021 due to strong demand and low inventories of ilmenite in the global supply chain.
The company's results might have been even better had it not been hit by the Covid-19 pandemic. According to Kenmare, in the first half of the year there were personnel shortages, including of senior management, which impacted on ilmenite production.
From the second half of December onwards many employees were affected during the country's fourth wave of the pandemic. Kenmare reports that the number of employees in isolation on-site following a positive test result rose as high as 326 on 6 January 2022 but this has since reduced to 168 on 11 January 2022.
By the end of the year, 96 per cent of the company's employees had received two doses of the Covid-19 vaccine, and 12,000 doses were donated for local people.
The company's achievements in this difficult period were noted by Managing Director Michael Carvill, who commented, "I would like to thank all of our team for contributing to this fantastic result, particularly in light of the huge challenges we experienced from Covid-19 in the first quarter".
Ilmenite and rutile 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 is used for abrasive and insulating purposes.