People displaced by the Fluorspar Mining Company in Kimwarer, Kerio Valley, in Elgeyo-Marakwet County have a reason to smile after the government released Sh1 billion for their compensation.
President Uhuru Kenyatta directed Mining Cabinet Secretary Dan Kazungu to visit the area to address the long standing issue.
The President, who made the announcement during a tour of the region last week, assured those whose land was taken over by the mining company that in two weeks officials of the Ministry of Mining would have compiled a list of those affected.
“This will pave the way for compensation immediately. Unlike our opponents, who were in the coalition government, ours is a government that is serving wananchi and not taking care of own personal interests,” said President Kenyatta, adding that Jubilee was committed to meeting the welfare of all Kenyans.
He said that construction of Kimwarer Day would commence in July, adding that another Sh1.1 billion had been set aside for Iten-Tambach water project.
The government has been under pressure from Elgeyo Marakwet leaders to compensate the over 500 families displaced from more than 900 acres of their ancestral land to facilitate mining of fluorspar.
In March, the leaders issued a two-month ultimatum to the government to pay members of Kimwarer Sugutek (fluorspar) community millions of shillings for forcible eviction to permit mining in Kerio Valley.
Keiyo South MP Jackson Kiptanui and County Woman Representative Susan Chebet were told to ensure that a petition on land compensation was tabled and approved by Parliament before the end of the current term.
The families have been demanding Sh3 million per acre for the more than 900 acres acquired over 40 years ago.
They sought compensation even as the company suspended mining and fired workers owing to a slump in the fluorspar market.
“A collapse of the market over the past six months has led to a dramatic reduction in fluorspar prices and demand. Company operations have become unsustainable in the current market,” said managing director Nico Spangenberg in a past interview.
He said the entry of new players in the market from the Eastern bloc has led to a slump in fluorspar prices globally.
“Eastern bloc countries have emerged as the main producers. They have flooded the market with over 200,000 extra tonnes of fluorspar at low prices, making the business uneconomical,” said Mr Spangenberg.
He said fluorspar mined at Kerio Valley has a high concentration of phosphoric impurities, lowering its demand in the world market.
“Some of these new entries in the market produce fluorspar as a by-product of minerals such as copper, thus selling it at low prices but with better returns,” said Mr Spangenberg.
Fluorspar mined at Kerio Valley is wholly exported. It is transported by road to Flax Trading Centre where it is loaded onto wagons and transported by train to Mombasa.
It is used in the manufacture of steel, air conditioning systems, electronics, glass fibre, aluminium and refrigerator gases.
The fluorspar company has recorded losses over the past three years, leading to suspension of operations.
This has dealt a big blow to transporters and small-scale traders at Kimwarer Trading Centre.