Over 8,000 households in Isulu-Bushiangala, Ikolomani Constituency have refused to pave the way for Shanta Gold Company to set up its multi-billion mining operation base.
In a public participation meeting that was also attended by MP Benard Shinali, a representative from the national and county government, a Shanta Gold representative, and one of the company investors, angry residents opposed the move to be resettled.
The residents claimed that the plan to have them move for gold mining activities was done in secrecy and that they had no trust in the investor “who exploited them before”.
Mr Shinali urged the company to suspend its plans until a truce is reached.
Eliud Luyundi, secretary general of the Isulu-Bushiangala mining committee, said they have no idea where their people would be relocated.
“The company recruited and employed their own people at our expense and yet they expect us to pave the way for the expansion of their base of operation,” said Luyundi.
“We are more than 8,000 homes that risk eviction translating to about 40,000 people. We have no communication from the investors and other stakeholders or relevant authorities and this is why we are vehemently rejecting their plan.”
Luyundi added that the company’s Human resource department had sacked some of the few locals who had jobs in the company on flimsy grounds like being dirty.
“We have asked the procurement department to provide us with their pre-qualified documents so that we know who is supplying them with goods and whether some of us have been picked but they have not because they source their goods from outside Kakamega, “said Luyundi.
Residents, however, urged the investors to come out openly and talk to them and execute their case in good faith.
Bernard Muteshi, the Isulu-Bushiangala Mining Committee chairman, said the company had a sinister motive right from its establishment.
“They came to us (Investor) last month during a sensitisation meeting saying they would be exploring the area and that there shall be an explosion, noise, and some dangerous chemicals will be used therefore we have to move out,” said Mudeshi.
“Since 2001 they have changed their company name five times, currently they are known as Shanta Gold Company but when they employ people, the payment comes with Akasha Gold Company so we do not know whom we are dealing with.”
Mudeshi alleges that the investor wants to mine rocks from Ikolomani and be taken to Siaya where there is a factory.
Stay informed. Subscribe to our newsletter
“We have our own gold mining factory worth 1.2 billion being constructed at Lidambitsa and yet the Shanta Gold Company wants to mine our rocks and take them to Siaya. How will the people of Kakamega benefit?”
MP Shinali supported the resident’s move arguing that locals must benefit from their natural resources.
“I have not sat in any meeting with Shanta Gold Company for my people to move. I challenged the investor to construct a factory in Ikolomani but they declined and it up it in Siaya County. They have also mistreated the few they employed on a temporary basis,” he said.
Shinali urged the Company to suspend its operations until the locals and its leadership know its owners and the percentage of local representation in its activities.
Earlier Philipa Hutchinson, one of the investors of Shanta Gold Company who was in the meeting, had a difficult time explaining to residents their mission and intentions.
The investor said their mission was to conduct a feasibility study in the area to know the amount of gold in the area.
“At this time there is no decision for us to mine or resettle people. What we want is to do a feasibility study that will take a minimum of eight months and we will have more engagements before we can come back to you and give out our report,” said Hutchinson.
She was forced to cut short her speech when residents heckled and shut her down.
In 2020, the village of Isulu-Bushiangala was identified as a potential gold mining center by Shanta Gold Company.
Isulu-Bushiangala is along the Lirhanda Corridor and was discovered to have 1.31 million ounces of gold deposits valued at Sh171 billion by Acacia Mining, a British company that carried out exploration in the area.
Lirhanda Corridor stretches from Kakamega through Vihiga, Siaya, Busia, and Kisumu counties.
Shanta Gold estimates there could be gold deposits worth $2 billion (Sh293 billion), along the Kakamega-Busia gold belt, which covers at least 1,160 square kilometres.