Villagers fear eviction after limestone licence is issued

Sprawling limestone deposits dominate the Kanziko landscape. Athi River Mining Company has been given the license to explore for it. [Photo: Standard]

Residents of Kambe area have expressed fears that they could be evicted after a cement company was given a licence to explore for limestone.

The Government issued exploration rights to Athi River Mining Cement and its activities could affect five villages.

The target area covers 24.9 square kilometres on which Chonyi, Pangani, Chauringo, Maereni and Mazera villages stand.

“Notice is given by virtue of section 34 of the Mining Act that an application for a mining licence, whose details and area boundary schedule are as described here below, has been made under section 101 of the Act and the said application has been accepted for consideration,” Petroleum and Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes said in the notice dated July 18, 2018.

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Mr Munyes invited those who wished to object to his decision to grant the licence to do so in writing within 42 days from the day the notice was published in the Kenya Gazette. Today is the deadline for those wishing to oppose the planned exploration of limestone.

The residents who spoke to The Standard said they had not been aware of the notice until yesterday when a human rights group raised the matter.

“The process appears to be shrouded in secrecy. We just learnt that the deadline for us to file any objections is tomorrow (today). We will not allow the project,” said Bozo Jenje, a resident.

Mr Jenje said the villagers had suffered massive losses due to mining and would not allow the cement company to add to their problems by setting up shop in the area.

"Our houses have cracked as a result of explosives used by miners and no one is willing to compensate us," he said.

"I urge the ministry not to allow some influential individuals to make a decision that will affect the lives of thousands of people who do not have any other home. This is their ancestral land," said Morris Dzoro, a commissioner with the National Cohesion and Integration Commission, who is also a resident of the area.

“As a community, we will resist any attempts to displace our people by political elites who are after Mijikenda community land,” said Mr Dzoro, also a former Cabinet minister.

Yusuf Lule, the program director at Human Rights Agenda, said the cement firm did not meet the requirements to apply for a licence.

"The Mining Act 2016 states that no company can apply for a new licence or extend an existing one if it declares that it has financial problems," said Mr Lule, claiming that the community was not consulted and that an environmental impact assessment had not been done.

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ResidentsEvictionLimestone Exploration