Bamburi Cement has begun exploratory drilling for limestone in Kanziku and Mathima locations of the newly-created Mutomo District.
The Sh50-million exercise is expected to take approximately three months.
"This is a critical step... aimed at obtaining samples... to determine the quality and quantities of the limestone deposits," the company said in a statement on Monday.
Deposits of limestone, used in manufacturing cement, have been found in the area. The site also has other minerals like pozzolana and gypsum, which are used as additives in cement.
Recently, The Standard revealed that Bamburi and rival cement firm Athi River Mining (ARM) have been involved in a dispute over prospecting in the area.
Bamburi officials claim ARM, in which it is a minority shareholder, is mining limestone illegally in the area and are seeking Government help to stop them.
Bamburi says it has the blessing of the Kitui County Council to mine in the area, while ARM says it is dealing directly with individual farmers.
The Kitui Council’s consent followed meetings with local residents and leaders in the Kanziku and Kavyuni areas to let them in on the company’s intentions.
"The start of this drilling process...is not only significant for our business but also in sowing the seed of partnership with the local community," Bamburi Chairman, Mr Richard Kemoli, says.
The Commissioner of Mines and Geology issued Bamburi with an Exclusive Prospecting License (EPL) for Kanziku in March. An EPL for Kavyuni is awaiting approval.
A drilling firm from the United Kingdom, Emerson Moore Geosciences Ltd, is already on site working under the guidance of a team of geologists from Lafarge, Bamburi’s parent company.
Bamburi anticipates that good limestone reserves at both sites will greatly support its expansion plans and see it double its current annual production capacity to about 2.3 million metric tonnes of cement.
Limestone is a critical component in the manufacture of cement, accounting for about 90 per cent of the final product. The location of limestone deposits, therefore, often determines the location of the cement factory.
"This is just a first step towards building our presence in Mutomo District," Kemoli says.
"We believe the success of this process will pave the way for significant investment based on the quality and quantities of limestone reserves ascertained after the drilling process."
The Lafarge East Africa business unit, headed by Managing Director, Mr Michael Puchercos, comprises of Bamburi Cement (Kenya and Uganda) and Mbeya Cement (Tanzania).
Bamburi/ Lafarge has a significant stake in Uganda’s Hima Cement and is also a shareholder of Kenya’s two other cement manufacturers, East Africa Portland Cement (41 per cent) and Athi River Mining (15 per cent).