Delayed appointment of some Mineral Rights Board members has stalled issuing of mining licences for four months, Mining secretary Dan Kazungu said on Monday.
Hundreds of applications have piled up at the ministry since a new law requiring the constitution of the board to review and approve licences came into force in May this year.
Mr Kazungu, whose role is to appoint two members of the nine member team, said he was still waiting for President Uhuru Kenyatta to appoint a board chair and one more nominee from the Council of Governors.
“If I get the chair today and the nominee from the council of governors I can inaugurate the board in a week,” he said ahead of the Kenya Mining Forum set to be held in Nairobi from Wednesday.
Section 31 of the Mining Act 2016 gives the Minerals Rights Board power to advise on issues relating to granting, rejection, retention, renewal, suspension, revocation, variation, assignment, trading, tendering or transfer of mineral rights.
It will also advise on, among others, areas suitable for small-scale and artisanal mining, areas where mining operations may be excluded and restricted, and the declaration of some minerals as a strategic national resource.
Besides the four appointees who must have professional experience in mining, the board will comprise of Principal Secretary (PS) Mining, Ibrahim Mohamed, Treasury PS Kamau Thugge and National Land Commission chair Mohamed Swazuri.
The directors of mines and geological survey will also form part of the team that has taken over the role of the Mining Cabinet Secretary.
The board is expected to cut down cumbersome bureaucratic processes which investors applying for licenses to prospect for various minerals face.
This is expected to reduce the time taken to process an application via the newly launched mining register portal.
“We are appealing to the president and governors to help us fast-track (the process), you know pushing for this is not easy given their busy schedules,” he told journalists at the ministry headquarters in Nairobi.
The board is meant to give investors confidence in the country’s largely unexplored mining sector, especially given that Kenya is embroiled in an investment dispute with Cortec Mining Kenya over the cancellation of its licences by former Mining Cabinet Secretary Najib Balala.
Mr Balala revoked the licences of 65 companies in 2013 over claims that they were using them to speculate. He also impose a moratorium on the issuance of new licences.
Mr Kazungu said that such unilateral actions are no longer possible under the new law, adding that it would be easier to weed out speculators since mining firms will be required to give quarterly reports on the actual work done.
The law that replaced the 1940 mining law has been touted as the best bargain in a bid to balance investor and public interest as well as financial obligations to mineral rights holders.