Approve proposed law to control gold mining, 14 counties tell MPs

Kakamega Governor Wycliffe Oparanya during the launch of the construction of a gold refinery and processing plant in Ikolomani on November 9, 2021. [Benard Lusigi, Standard]

The Lake Region Economic Bloc (Lreb) has called on Parliament to pass a law to streamline the gold mining sector to improve the fortunes of those engaged in the trade.

The bloc, which brings together 14 counties, said the Gold Processing Bill, 2021, which provides for the establishment of a gold refinery and a regulatory agency, will bring order to the sector.

Governor Wycliffe Oparanya, the Lreb chairman, said the proposed law will hasten development for the benefit of more than 16 million residents of the counties.

Lreb and the Parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources last week held a public forum in Kisumu to seek the views of stakeholders on the Bill.

“I had an opportunity to go through the draft Bill and I can attest that if passed into law, the document will go a long way in turning around the mining sector in Kenya. I, therefore, urge the legislators to expedite its passage,” the governor told the forum.

Ikolomani MP Bernard Shinal is the author of the Bill.

Mr Oparanya said the lack of policy has hampered the ongoing efforts to build the refinery, which he said would tame unscrupulous traders and middlemen.

“The construction of a gold factory at Lidambitsa in Ikolomani is already underway, but due to a lack of policies to regulate and protect miners and investors, the investor is reluctant to inject more money,” he said.

The plant is expected to serve miners from Siaya, Kakamega, Migori, Kisii, and Vihiga counties, which have an estimated gold occurrence of 1.1 million ounces.

There are also high-grade deposits in Lirhanda corridor cutting through Kakamega, Vihiga and Siaya counties with a resource of 1.31 million ounces of gold estimated at Sh171 billion, according to Acacia Mining Company.

The Bill has proposed the establishment of the Gold Processing Corporation with powers to manage and regulate the sector.

Oparanya said the corporation will be independent of the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum, which will only play an advisory role.

“Cartels and barons have colluded with some ministry officials to frustrate efforts of streamlining the sector by delaying the Bill in a deliberate move to ensure the sector remains exposed so some individuals can gain by exploiting miners, especially small-scale artisanal miners and investors,” he said.

“It took us two years to get the license for the investor who is constructing the gold factory. And even after that, the investor was given just one year to operate. These are some of the frustrations that the Bill will address.”

The governor said Lreb counties and other areas where gold mining takes place are losing a lot of revenue.

“With proper legal framework and structures, counties in Western and Nyanza will collect more revenue from gold mining. We will also empower our people,” said Mr Oparanya.

Mr Shinali said the Bill will guarantee investors a conducive environment to work, set standards and offer training to miners to avert unnecessary deaths in gold shafts.

“Its aim is to cushion our people from exploitation, through legislation, to ensure they all benefit equally from the natural resources,” he said.

The committee vice-chairman Paul Nzengu expressed confident MPs will pass the proposed law before the August 9 elections.

“We will lobby our colleagues to pass the Bill so as to set the standards, regulate the sector and weed out people who exploit miners in order to enrich themselves,” he said.