Kitui is perceived as one of the richest counties in Kenya, owing to its immense wealth of large mineral deposits.
Among the minerals which the county boasts of is coal, whose discovery in the Mui coal basin several decades ago was a major milestone in positioning the region as one with a big potential in wealth creation in Kenya.
According to expert reports, alongside large deposits of coal, in Mui basin are also significant amounts of iron ore as well as some traces of copper.
With all these, Kitui County, under the new leadership of Governor Charity Ngilu, is expected to benefit a lot from the huge mineral deposits it is endowed with.
However, since the signing of the benefit sharing agreement (BSA) between Kitui leaders and the Chinese firm, Fenxi Industry Mining Company (FIMC), which was contracted to mine coal way back in 2014, very little has happened in Mui five years down the line.
There have been many handles standing on the way, hindering the start of mining of the coal.
One major setback is the push by global stakeholders to restrict the use of coal as a form of energy and instead advocating for the use of green energy. This has made coal less useful as a form of energy.
Political intrigues have also stood on the way for the mining of coal in Kitui. There seemed to be a conflict between the national and county governments on the sharing of wealth from the coal mining.
Another issue which has continued to frustrate the mining is the signing of the addendum – a document which was drafted after the signing of the BSA to cater for interests of the local community who were thought to have been left out in the BSA. The document is yet to be signed.
At the same time, the local community has been opposed to the project due to uncertainty on where they would be relocated to once the project starts.
Compensation has also been a thorny issue that has delayed the start of the project.
Muthui Mung’ola, a farmer at the Mui coal basin, is of the opinion that the project should not be implemented as it will totally interfere with farming which is the only source of income for his family.
“Mining of coal in our area is likely to completely ruin our lives. We are very comfortable here and how I wish that this process stalls forever,” said Mung’ola.
Ms Mbithe Muthui, also from the area, feels that though those who will be affected by the project will be compensated, the amount of money might not be enough compared to what they get from farming which ton regular basis.
“The amount of money we are likely to be given as compensation might not be enough to help us to start a new life and engage in farming activities as our land is more fertile than most other parts of Kitui,” noted Ms Mbithe.
All these factors have continued to be major setbacks in the mining of coal in Kitui and unless both the national and the county governments move with speed to resolve solve the issues, the mining of coal in the Mui basin might take ages to start.
But there is still hope as Governor Ngilu, in her inauguration speech, promised to tap all minerals in the county so as to improve the region’s economy.
Mrs Ngilu promised to partner with the national government in order to ensure that minerals which exist in Kitui such as coal and limestone are fully utilised for the benefit of the residents.