Kenya has discovered its first deposits of the valuable mineral coltan, the mining Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya has said.
The rare mineral is used to manufacture electric car batteries, mobile phones, and other electronic devices.
The Democratic Republic of Congo holds more than 70 percent of the world’s coltan reserves, which have for decades fuelled violent conflict in the east of the country.
It is not clear how large the coltan deposits found in Kenya are.
Mining officials have previously hinted that Kenya could have traces of the highly valuable ore, but Mvurya on
Wednesday said that his announcement means “it is now official” that Kenya has coltan reserves.
Deposits of the mineral have been found in six counties across the country, but their value is yet to be determined.
“We will leave our teams behind to do ground truthing so that we can now begin to assess the economic value of that particular mineral,” Mvurya said.
Residents of Embu County in eastern Kenya, one of the six counties with reserves of the mineral, have been advised to hold onto their land.
“A precious mineral has been found here and if you want to benefit you should not sell your land,” MP Nebart Muriuki.
Mvurya said the discovery was expected to create more jobs and expand Kenya’s mining industry.
Mining accounts for less than 1% of Kenya’s GDP but has the potential to contribute up to 10%, according to the Kenya National Chamber of Commerce and Industry (KNCCI).
Coltan is often refined into metallic tantalum, a heat-resistant powder that is used to produce capacitors, which are then used to manufacture electronic devices.
The price of coltan depends on how much tantalum it contains, but on average, a kilogram of the rare ore fetches $48 (£37), according to Forbes.
Analysts say the international demand for coltan is growing fast and has become one of the driving forces behind the conflict in eastern DR Congo, as rival militias fight for control of mines that produce coltan and other valuable minerals.
DR Congo, along with neighboring Rwanda, is two of the world’s top coltan suppliers.