Most Kenyans, especially those living in urban areas, prefer permanent houses constructed with bricks and concrete. Skyscrapers are also perpetually mushrooming in major cities and towns in the country.
Constructing these structures depends on cement, which is used to make concrete. Cement in Kenya is locally produced due to expansive limestone deposits.
Limestone is a carbonated sedimentary rock mainly found on the sea bed with high calcium carbonate concentration.
The sedimentary rock is mainly composed of two minerals; calcite and aragonite, the crystal forms of Calcium Carbonate (limestone).
The mineral is granular in texture and its primary color ranges from white to grey.
In Kenya, the main limestone mineral deposits are at Bamburi in the coastal region. Mining companies utilize the open pit mining method to extract it before transporting it for processing.
The method involves removing topsoil to expose the mineral deposits. Next, the mineral is extracted by blasting and drilling.
(The Athi River Mining Company in Nairobi conducts limestone mining using this method).
The mineral is then transported to processing plants where it is crushed and processed for use in various applications.
Let’s explore some of the most common uses of limestone in Kenya.
Limestone is used in the production of lime, an important raw material in manufacturing cement.
Subsequently, cement is used in the building and construction industry, a major contributor to the Kenyan economy. (Remember, better infrastructure promotes investments and business activities.)
But cement isn’t the only construction material obtained from limestone. Due to its, durability, versatility, and appeal to the eye, limestone is used in various construction projects, including roofing, flooring, walls, and general finishes.
Kenya is a largely agricultural economy. People rely on agriculture, not only as the main source of food production, but also as a major export income earner.
Agricultural lime, a limestone product, is used to condition soil, making it viable for planting by neutralizing its acidity.
Also, limestone contains calcium and magnesium, which are necessary for plant growth. It is for this reason that limestone is used in manufacturing fertilizers.
Besides, the presence of limestone in soil improves soil texture and its water retention capacity. As a result, crop production increases.
Limestone is rich in calcium, and this makes it an important raw material in the manufacture of:
- Glass: Glass is important in construction and bottling.
- Medicine: Calcium carbonate is used as a gastric anti-acid
- Food stuff additive: In its purified form, limestone is a source of calcium added in cereals.
- Toothpaste: Calcium is an important nutrient to strengthen bones and teeth.
- Fillers for cosmetic products
4. Mining and Quarrying
Mining limestone provides employment for many people in Kenya, including mining engineers, machine operators, and geologists among others.
5. Environmental Uses
Limestone also acts as an air purifier. It contains calcium carbonate which reacts with Sulphur, an industrial waste, to reduce its harmfulness to the environment.
The Dark Side of Limestone Mining In Kenya
But despite its importance to Kenya’s economy, limestone mining is not an all-rosy affair. Some experts argue that continued mining eventually leads to:
- Fluctuations in land use patterns
- Loss of habitats
- Increased noise levels
- Dust emissions
- Alterations in aquifer regimes
Calcium carbonate (limestone) is an important mineral in Kenya’s agricultural, manufacturing, and construction industries.
Large limestone deposits make it readily available and affordable in Kenya. But as its demand increases, caution has to be taken to avoid over-mining.
You may also want to check: