(REUTERS) -- Gold producer and explorer Goldplat said it expected to make its first shipment from its Kenyan mining project in early 2012, after receiving a mining licence from the government.

Kenya awarded the company a commercial 21-year gold mining lease on Wednesday, enabling it to exploit large gold deposits in the Lolgorien area in the country's Rift Valley.

With issuance of this mining lease we shall immediately start with the first phase of expansion to an anticipated annual production of 5,000 ounces of gold per annum, Mark Austin, chief executive of the company's Kenyan subsidiary, Kilimapesa Gold Pty, said at ceremony to receive the licence.

Last year, Goldplat got permission to start commercial gold production at Kilimapesa's processing plant.

The spin-offs from a vibrant mining industry will no doubt touch many Kenyans in a very positive manner, Austin said.

The company said exploratory underground development at its mine was progressing well.

Gold prices are up as much as 20 percent since June as investors seek refuge from stock market turmoil and sovereign debt crises.

Environment and mineral resources minister John Michuki said the lease handed to Goldplat was the first in the history of the east Africa nation.