Despite being endowed with minerals; Taita-Taveta County residents are wallowing in poverty.
The precious stones mined in the county include Tsavorite (green garnets), red garnets, ruby, sapphire, tourmalines, rhodolites among others.
The millions of shillings generated from these minerals have brought nothing to the locals who are left to deal with environmental degradation, pollution and poverty.
Instead, only a few individuals, who have taken advantage of the poor residents who work in their mines, have enriched themselves.
The poor residents, who work under unfavourable conditions, get poor pay.
Kasigau residents have blamed lack of skills to excavate minerals for their failure to exploit the minerals.
Due to lack of capital and skills, most local miners use easily available explosives to break down the rocks in search of the gemstones.
Despite the health and environmental risks involved, the miners are also often conned by dealers who control the gemstone market.
Mr Ezra Mdamu said only ‘outsiders’ benefit at the expense of locals.
If fully tapped, proceeds from the minerals could be used to build better roads, health centres, schools, provide clean water for the local residents.
“Due to lack of capital, proper skills and equipment we cannot exploit and process these minerals by ourselves,” Mr Mdamu said.
The local residents say that mining companies in Kasigau, Mkuki and Alia reap big from the precious stones yet development in the region has stagnated.
“Some of the local residents employed in these mines are paid a paltry Sh200 per day,” he said.
In 2015, some women working at a mine at Kasigau ranch complained of sexual harassment.
They had complained of being searched inappropriately by the owners of the mine who claimed that some of them could hide the precious stones in their genitals.
A women’s group in Kasigau says lack of proper security at the mining zones hinders women from venturing into mining activities.
“We have a mine but we cannot do excavation because we fear for our lives,” said Ms Esther Wanjala.
The local residents have complained that they have been locked out of potential mining regions including the Tsavo National Park.
In his recent visit to the county, Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes said the government had put up measures to ensure that locals from mining areas benefit from the resources.
Mr Munyes has also warned mining companies that the government will not issue licenses to those who fail to seek consent from land owners.
“Mining companies must enter into community development agreements with residents,” he said.
Deputy Governor Majala Mlaghui reiterated the county government’s commitment to support small scale miners.