Kerio locals want more money for lost land

Sunday January 14 2018

An earthmover scoops raw material for crushing in Elgeyo-Marakwet County. photo | Jared Nyataya

An earthmover scoops raw material for crushing in Elgeyo-Marakwet County. photo | Jared Nyataya  

By WYCLIFF KIPSANG
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Plans for compensation of those displaced to pave way for mining activities in Kerio Valley, Marakwet County, are under way amid fresh demands from residents.

Whereas the government is working with a figure of Sh1 billion, residents are demanding Sh9 billion after they were rendered homeless from their 9,070 acres of ancestral land.

Among contentious issues that could delay the process include valuation for land and assets, identification of genuine beneficiaries and the mode of payment for the over 5,000 families.

Locals were displaced from their Kimwarer Sugutek land over 50 years ago to pave way for the Kenya Fluorspar Company to carry out mining.

A multi-agency team from the Mining Ministry, Office of the Attorney General, the National Land Commission (NLC) and the Land Ministry toured the area last week with the hope of hastening the process.

“We want private valuation carried out since the government agencies are likely to underestimate the cost subjecting families to social-economic suffering,” said Mr Isaiya Chemase, one of the residents.

Families are demanding Sh3 million per acre for what they claim is 921 acres of the mining field.

According to NLC, 4,300 land owners identified as genuine people displaced from the mining field are to get a share of the money.

“We are working on the resource document prepared by a taskforce comprising community representatives and government officials,” said NLC commissioner Silas Kinoti.

But community members estimate eligible beneficiaries at over 5,000 families and want detailed assessment carried out to determine what each family should receive.

“There is no valuation or survey carried out to hasten the compensation months after officials from the mining department toured the area,” said Mr Joseph Kandie, chairman of the Kimwarer Sugutek (Fluorspar) community.

They have constituted a seven-man taskforce including an auditor and legal expert to guide them in the process.

However, it is emerging that whereas some of the families are advocating land for land, others want to be given money as compensation.

“The government will compensate all genuine individuals irrespective of how they want the process to be implemented,” said Raymond Mutiso, acting director at the Mining Ministry.

Environmental pollution, disturbances of their ancestors’ burial sites, are some of the pertinent issues the community presented to the Fluorspar Task Force Committee whose recommendations were presented to the government to guide the payment process.

Families are also demanding pay for loss of livestock, damage to property and environmental degradation.

Elgeyo Marakwet Governor Alex Tolgos said previous Fluorspar Task Force Report ought to be a resource document in guiding the compensation.

“When the company lease is renewed, we want local people to buy shares in the new management so that they are part of the ownership,” said the governor.

The petition by the community comes after the Kenya Fluorspar Company suspended mining operations and laid off workers owing to slump in fluorspar prices in the world market.

“A collapse in market conditions has led to a dramatic reduction in fluorspar prices and demand and thus the company operations have become unsustainable in the current market,” explained the company managing director Nico Spangenberg in a past interview.

Fluorspar mined at Kerio Valley is wholly exported. It is transported by road to Flax Trading Centre where it’s loaded to wagons and transported by train to Mombasa.

The exit of the Kerio Valley based mining company leaves South Africa and Morocco as the remaining African counties extracting the mineral.

South Africa produces 300,000 tonnes annually, Morocco 100,000 tonnes while Kenya produces an average of 120,000 tonnes but the depressed market has impacted negatively to the once lucrative mineral sector.

“A prolonged global slump in commodity prices has negatively impacted on extractive business including fluorspar. Low demand and declined prices since 2012 has led to losses,” explained Mr Spangenberg.

In Kenya, the fluorspar used in the manufacture of fluoride for cooling plants is mined in Keiyo South Sub-county, forming part of riches of Kerio Valley.