Lack of law steals the glow from locals hosting mining firms
Posted Tuesday, January 8 2013 at 02:00
- Increased activities in the sector following discovery of oil, natural gas and coal deposits in Kitui County call for the need to put in place regulations that spell out what the government, regional authorities and residents are entitled to.
As matters stand, Parliament will wind up its business before concluding debate and legislation on a proposed law governing mining in the country. The August House holds it final session next week though the draft Geology Minerals and Mining Bill 2012 is yet to make its way to the floor of the house.
Despite the delay, there is hope by communities occupying mining areas that at least a law will be enacted to make it easy for them to lay claim to a portion of revenue accruing from mining. To many, their only evidence to the mining boom has been the low pay in exchange for menial labour. (Read: New mining rules to be amended, says official)
“We had a very good opportunity to enrich ourselves financially but soapstone has never had a good market price in this region,” said Mr Cosmas Onchomba who owns one of the biggest soapstone quarries in Tabaka region, Kisii County.
Mr Onchomba’s comments resonate with many other communities hosting mining firms and in some doing the mining themselves but selling the stones to middlemen who benefit more due to lack of laws on revenue sharing.
In Kisii, famous for its soapstone, dealers and quarry owners say they are languishing in poverty as middlemen gain handsomely from their sweat.
The stones are excavated and shipped to countries such as Uganda, Tanzania and South Africa for processing into expensive artifacts.
Quarry owners sell over 5 kilogrammes of the raw stones at less than Sh100 while such a boulder can be carved into finished products of visual nourishment fetching over Sh1,200 apiece.
At the same time, a fight has broken out between residents of Mui Basin, Kitui County and a company over their demand to have a share of revenue realised from coal recognised.
Awarded to Chinese Company Fenxi Industry Mining Group, extraction of the estimated 400 million metric tonnes of coal has not began as prevailing issues are yet to be ironed out and concession agreement signed between the government and the firm.
Many were pushing for the revenue earned by the government to be split at a ratio of 80:15:20 between the national and country governments and, social projects around the mining areas.
Titanium mining at the Coast has not been spared either with the unsettled communities’ interest delaying the project for years now.
Last year, a conflict erupted in Athi River between the Maasai community and cement makers over access to gypsum, limestone, pozzolana and kunkur mines in Kajiado County on claims that the largely pastoralists community was getting a raw deal. As a return to business formula, the Maasai elders detailed a list of projects that the cement firms were to undertake while financing education for their children.
Kenya is also endowed with minerals such as titanium, iron ore, manganese and gemstones in the coastal region. Fluorspar is also mined in Kerio Valley and Soda Ash in Lake Magadi.
Former Industrialisation permanent secretary, Dr Karanja Kibicho, recently said Kenya is losing over Sh300 billion in untapped revenue to the black market and unexploited mineral resources.
He said the clause requiring that at least 3 per cent of revenues from Kenya be paid as royalties is exploitative on the Kenyan people since it was enacted in 1948 by the colonial government which wanted to ship a lot of the minerals to their mother countries.
“At just Sh250, there are individuals who have literally leased out some parts of the country especially Coast Province on claims that they want to exploit mineral ores in the region,” said Mr Kibicho.
However, the Ministry of Environment, through the mining and geological department, which drafted the Mining Bill 2012, said the proposed law is expected to streamline operations in the sector if passed by Parliament.
If it sees the light of day, the law will among other things see revenues realised from mining shared between the national government, county and the community where a particular mineral is found in the ratio of 80 to 15 to 5 per cent respectively. (Read: House urged to look into two mining sector Bills)