Kitui County’s Mining Stakeholders In Two-day Mining Conference

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By BONIFACE MULU

Good governance in the extractives sector is one of the strategic themes of focus within the Transparency International (TI) Kenya Concept of Action.

Making the remarks, the acting Transparency International (TI)-Kenya Executive Director, Sheila Masinde, said that Kenya’s Mining for Sustainable Development Programme aims at empowering the local communities with the appropriate knowledge so that they can meaningfully participate in decision-making processes within the extractive sector.

“Additionally, the program is aimed at strengthening the institutions involved in the sector, particularly those involved in the awarding of licenses and permits,” she said.

These interventions are informed by our research conducted in 2016 that identified the key risks in the award chain that was vulnerable to corruption, the TI official said.

Masinde made the remarks in a speech read for her by a TI-Kenya official, Lawyer Philip Mutio when he officially opened a two-day mining conference organized by the Caritas Kitui in partnership with the Kenya Conference of Catholic Bishops (KCCB), the Catholic Justice and Peace Commission (CJPC), the Haki Madini Kenya.

The Transparency International-Kenya, the Kitui Catholic Diocese, and the Kenya National Human Rights Commission (KNHRC) at the Kitui Multipurpose Development Training Institute recently. Mutio opened the event on Masinde’s behalf where the participants were from Kitui County.

Masinde said that on September 11 and 12, 2018, the TI-Kenya joined other partners at the Kitui Catholic Diocese’s Pastoral Centre for the first Kitui County Jukwaa. Among the main objectives of the 2018 Jukwaa was to advocate for transparent, equitable, and just extractives practices in the management, governance, and distribution of national resources through policy and legislative reforms for sustainable development.

“The question we can ask today is to what extent have we achieved this?,” Masinde said. Has anything changed since 2018 such that our people, the residents of Kitui County, can confidently witness that the mining sector is transparent and accountable, she also questioned.

Today we are here under the theme “Advocating for inclusivity and fairness in decision-making processes for responsible exploitation of mineral resources in Kitui County”.

It is through bringing everyone on board, sharing the information that we can all associate with the decisions made regarding the mining in Kitui County,” the non-governmental official added.

This means if either of the parties and more so the residents of Kitui is left out of the discussions, we cannot have a responsible extraction of minerals, she said.

As you know, Kitui County is endowed with large deposits of minerals that are deemed to be commercially viable and as such, the mining in this county offers excellent economic opportunities, Masinde said. “It, however, needs to be done in a responsible way.

In this regard, relevant stakeholders must ensure the participatory planning for mineral extraction, from exploration to post-closure, which is well-aligned with our theme for the Kitui County objectives,” the director said.

And importantly, a collaboration between the various stakeholders is necessary to actualize this, she added. “There has to be support for these ambitions from the government by creating an enabling regulatory regime from the industry by abiding by the legal regime and by an empowered citizen knowledgeable on their rights and responsibilities in order to effectively manage our resources while protecting our environment,” the TI official said.

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Masinde said that respect for the people’s right to participation is very crucial. “The integrated land use and planning, for example, requires the involvement of a wide range of stakeholders using or potentially using the land as this gives people a voice in determining the kind of social and natural environment they would like to see develop around them as well as providing a deeper and long-lasting legitimacy about decisions made,” she said.

The government has already taken several steps in the right direction with the formulation and enactment of the mining regulations. This has the potential of going a long way in managing the stakeholder’s expectations and developing trust between the government, mining companies, and the local communities,” Masinde said.

However, this is depended on how committed each party is to play their roles, she added. The official said the civil society, community, and faith-based organizations have also been instrumental in identifying key challenges affecting the communities within the mining operations and have presented these challenges to the relevant authorities.

Thus, our engagements are well blessed to realize the expected outputs for the sustainable exploitation, utilization, management, and conservation of the environment and natural resources and ensure the equitable sharing of the accruing benefits as stipulated in Article 69 of Kenya’s constitution, Masinde said.

With those remarks, I wish all of us successful discussions and look forward to a fruitful Jukwaa 2020. Thank you.,” she said. In his lecture, a National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) Kitui County environment officer, Naftaly Osoro, said the mining process requires a lot of public participation.

And he added that mining causes a lot of environmental destruction. “As the NEMA, we play a role in the mining sector. We issue the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) licenses for mining sites in the country through the country’s Environment Management and Coordination Act (EMCA) 1999, the official said.

Osoro said that under the Act’s second schedule they have listed projects that require the EIA licenses and that the mining is one of them. “Under the Act, the EIA and Audit Regulations 2003 operationalize the Act,” the expert said.

In Kitui County we have projects that have been licensed by the NEMA and range from the limestone, gemstone, iron ore, and copper among others, the NEMA official said.

We have issued prospecting and mining licenses for various minerals being mined in Kitui County,” Osoro said. “As the NEMA, we don’t work alone. We work closely with the County Environment and Natural Resources Ministry and Kenya’s Mining Ministry and other sectors that are concerned in the mining issues,

The environmentalist said. We have also the County Environment Committee, which is gazetted, that ensures responsible and proper management of the environment in the county, Osoro said.

He added that they as the NEMA advise artisanal miners to form groups so that they can be licensed as per the provision of the EIA. “Ours is to ensure the sustainable mineral exploration in the county by all the concerned sectors, the official said.

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In his speech, Moderator Cyprian Nyamwamu said that Kitui is the most mineral endowed County in Kenya. “Strategic mineral exploitation will transform lives of the people of Kitui County and the Kenya economy,” he said.

The people of Kitui call for the substantive mining of all minerals both at the small scale (artisanal) and the commercial/industrial levels except for coal. The benefit analysis shows that the coal will not give tangible benefits but harm to the people of Kitui,” Nyamwamu said.

The Caritas Kitui Director Mrs. Florence Ndeti, who officially closed the workshop, highly thanked the participants for attending the event in large numbers.

The director also thanked their partners. “Through their support, we the Caritas Kitui have done a lot of development in Kitui County including the environment, water, education, and agriculture projects,” Ndeti said.

And on his part, the Reverend Father Jeremiah Mutuku from the Kitui Catholic Diocese educated the participants on the theological reflection on natural resources and in particular borrowing heavily from the Laudato Si by Pope Francis. An official from the Kitui County Lands, Infrastructure and Urban Development Ministry Agnes Mulwa had represented the county minister, Engineer Joseph Kakundi at the function.

And she also addressed the participants. The National Lands Commission (NLC) Kitui County Director, Solomon Kithinji, said that the land in Kenya is divided into three categories-the public lands, the community land, and the private land.

The official said that the compulsory acquisition of the private or community land by the government is by the law. “The government can take a private or community land in the country if it requires it,” Kithinji said.

He added that the compulsory acquisition of a private or community land is done by the NLC on behalf of the government. And he said that people should not panic over the compulsory acquisition law.

In his lecture, Fredrick Ochieng Ouma, an official from the Transparency International Kenya talked about the mining-related effects. “In mining, you are dealing with things like suffocation and lung and skin diseases among many other effects,” he said.

Mining in all the mining countries in the world is like a curse. People in those countries die poor and they face a lot of health problems, Ouma said. And in his lecture, a South Eastern Kenya University geologist, Dr. Patrick Kariuki, talked about the use of coal from a global perspective, the mining in Kenya, the global overview of coal, and the past and present use of coal.

The South Eastern Kenya University is based in Lower Yatta District within Kitui County. Kariuki also talked about clean coal technologies and their examples.

The geologist also talked about the main advantages of the super-critical steam cycle. He said the iron ore and limestone are some of the major minerals that the Kitui County has.

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