Otherwise known as fluorite, fluorspar was first discovered in Kenya in 1967.
Its deposits were found at Kimwarer, Kerio Valley, in Elgeyo-Marakwet County, a part of the Great Rift Valley.
In 1971, Fluorspar Company of Kenya was founded by the national government.
Later, in 1979, the company changed ownership and was now known as Kenya Fluorspar Company, though it was still owned by the government.
It became a privately owned company in 1996 by the Canadian businessman Charles Field-Marsham.
In this post, I will discuss the various uses of one of the most valuable minerals in Kenya.
Before we dive in…
What Is Fluorspar?
Fluorspar is a mineral form of calcium fluoride, which is a commodity chemical used in production of a variety of materials.
It is 51.1% calcium and 48.9% fluorine when in its pure form.
However, it does contain some small amounts of aluminum, magnesium, and silicon in its natural form.
Fluorspar is white or colorless in its pure state, or fluorescent, which means it can be tinted if it contains impurities.
Fluorspar can be graded into three categories:
- Metallurgical grade fluorspar
- Ceramic grade fluorspar
- Acid grade fluorspar
Most Common Uses Of Fluorspar In Kenya
1. Metallurgical Grade Fluorspar
Fluorspar has a low melting point. As metallurgical grade fluorspar, it is used in the production of steel.
It is employed as a flux, and is intended to lower the melting point of the raw materials, which in turn helps in the removal of impurities from steel.
It also helps reduce the slag viscosity of the material.
It has been used in the production of aluminum as well during the Hall-Heroult process, where it is added alongside cryolite to lower the melting point of the electrolyte.
It is used in the cement industry to accelerate the calcination process.
2. Ceramic Grade Fluorspar
This form of fluorspar is used in making the non-stick cooking utensils we use at home by use of fluorine.
It is also being adopted by artists and used in making enamels as a top coat to make objects more durable and attractive.
Fluorspar is used in manufacturing high quality optics and camera lenses, ceramics, and glass.
The ceramic grade fluorspar is used in welding rods coating, producing a fine rough surface.
3. Acid Grade Fluorspar
Acid grade fluorspar is heated together with concentrated sulphuric acid to produce hydrofluoric acid.
The hydrofluoric acid is later used in lithium batteries, agrochemicals, polymers, and electrical and electronic appliances.
It is also used in production of aluminum fluoride and cryolite, which are used in aluminum smelting to lower the bath temperature.
Plans are Underway To Revive Kenya Fluorspar Company
Despite its importance in a variety of industries, fluorspar mining in Kenya has had challenges over the decades, which first led to Kenya Fluorspar Company halting of all operations in 2009, laying off about 200 workers.
Despite a comeback shortly after, it finally collapsed in 2016.
However, since late 2022 and early 2023, there have been plans by the Kenyan government to revive mining of fluorite again, once all settlements of those left uncompensated is complete.