Ranchers accuse ministry of issuing land to mining firms

The Ministry of Mining and Petroleum has been put on the spot for allegedly allocating mining fields without the involvement of land owners.

Local ranchers claimed that three foreign mining companies had been given about 500 square kilometres of land around Taita and Sagala hills.

Oza Ranch chairman Priston Mwazighe said the law stated that one had to first obtain a mining consent from the land owner and county government before being issued with a licence to prospect for minerals.

“We are also not sure whether an environment impact assessment was carried out before the prospecting was done,” said Mr Mwazighe yesterday.

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A local conservationist with the Kenya Forest Service, Christopher Maina, said areas earmarked for mining such as Sangenyi, Mwanda, Mgange, Mwaroko, and Kishushe, which were rich in iron ore, were also home to endemic plant and wildlife species.

“Taita Hills has 14 animals and a similar number of endemic plant species that should not have been interfered with,” said Mr Maina.

Mwazighe also claimed that the mining blocks had been entered into the Kenya Cadastral Map, which shows the boundaries and ownership of land parcels, and demanded an investigation.

“Putting the names of the mining companies in the cadastral map means that the blocks have already been secured for them,” he said.

But a senior mining official who sought anonymity told The Standard that two companies - Africstones and Zhenhua - were only prospecting for minerals and had yet to be granted licences.

“Some of the applications were done in 2016 for construction and industrial minerals. The applications have not yet progressed and have yet to conform with the new Mining Act procedures. It is just an application and not a licence,” the official said.

He added: “The applications have not yet progressed to the point of gazettement for public input." The official said a third company, Universal Resources International, had been granted a prospecting licence that should be now an application for re-grant under the new law as the previous licence expired in 2012.

“The licence has been the subject of a court case that was only recently concluded. None of these licences are considered as issued. They are merely applications except for Universal, which I can provide a proper position tomorrow (today)."

Deputy County Commissioner Francis Kazungu said the Kishushe iron ore belt extended into some of the areas that the mining companies had asked for permission to prospect.

“There is no cause for alarm as geologists started prospecting for minerals in local ranches a long time ago. Nobody will be deprived of his or her mining land rights by the companies. There must be consent from the land owners,” he said.

Ministry of MiningMiningTaita Taveta