State should clear the air on Fenxi Mining Company mining project

The simmering row pitting the Mui Basin community in Kitui against Fenxi Mining Company of China is an unnecessary distraction that should be easily resolved by bringing all the facts surrounding the project out in the open. For starters, the groups and individuals purporting to look out for the interests of the local people should ideally act as honest brokers and pass on information from the government and the Chinese company to the people.

There is a need to clarify, for example, whether the mining company was one of those affected by Mining Secretary Najib Balala’s cancellation of licences. But whether it was affected or not, it is important to note that a delay in the company’s operations is good for the people because the proposed Mining bill is set to increase the amount of revenue that will be paid to the local residents.

Dr Temi Mutia, the director of Regional Institute for Social Enterprise expresses best why a delay could be in the locals’ interests when he warns that the existing Mining Act is not enough to regulate coal mining and makes a case for a stand-alone coal mining law. Dr Mutia says rolling out the coal mining project with the current legislation is akin to asking the country and the community to cross the Thika Superhighway blindfolded.

Reports that the Benefits Sharing Agreement that was only negotiated earlier this year has to receive approval from China because the project will require mobilising of huge financial resources from its public banks, could be the main reason the company has yet to begin operations.

On its part, the government should clear the air by making the status of the project public. After all, President Uhuru Kenyatta reportedly met with Fenxi Mining officials on his recent Chinese visit.

By going public with information on exactly what is going on, the government will take away the wind from the sails of its critics who might want to read ulterior motives in the project’s delay. Events surrounding the mining project provide the conditions conducive to the spreading of wild rumours and innuendo. This should not be allowed to continue.