Kwale Sh35 billion titanium investment in danger
By Philip Mwakio | February 25th 2020
The future of Sh35 billion mining investment by Australian firm, Base Titanium, in Kwale hangs in the balance following an impasse over new mining sites.
According to Base Titanium’s External Affairs General Manager, Simon Wall, the firm will exhaust the minerals in the current location by mid-2023.
The opposition by locals and political leaders to allow it to carry out exploration at the new sites in the five villages in Kwale threatens the future of the firm in the county.
“As mining ceases, so will all the benefits emanating from the Kwale Mine which we estimate to be at close to Sh.3 billion per year," said Mr. Walla yesterday.
This could lead to the country losing revenue from Kenya’s largest mineral earner in terms of royalties and revenue by mid-2023. Titanium is Kenya's top foreign exchange earner.
Political leaders and local community leaders have been apprehensive of the overtures claiming that Base has been out to exploit the resources.
The main bone of contention has been the issue of land and benefits emanating from sale of the minerals through royalties.
Base Titanium holds two prospecting licenses (PL). PL/2018/0119 covers an area of 88 square km, include the current tenure of which remains valid to May 25, 2021.
The second licencse, designated PL/2015/0042 covers an area of 136 square km and it lies to the south west of PL/2018/0119 and extending towards the Tanzanian border.
The firm was granted the license for PL/2018/0119 on December 5, 2018 and is valid to December 4, 2021.
The exploration programme of the PLs commenced on April 1, 2019 following agreement between the firm, local government authorities and community members.
Activities to the northern section that covers five villages of Fahamuni, Michingirini, Dargube, Gongonda and Kidzumbani was suspended due to resistance from the locals.
Mr Wall said Base Titanium was working closely with all the stakeholders through the Ministry in an effort to gain land access for exploration.
As section of community leaders express fears claiming that allowing exploration work was tantamount to giving away their ancestral land.
“We will not let them take even an inch of our land. The people of Magaoni are not interested in exploration," said Mr Charles Bilali a lands rights crusader and resident of Kinondo said.
He added: "They (Base Titanium) are working together with the government and some elected leaders to coerce us to accept exploration and deny us our right to our land,”
Base Titanium on its part said it has never coerced any village to accept exploration.
“We have conducted drilling on more than 120 villages in Kwale and at no time have we coerced or forced anyone to release their land,'' said Mr Pius Kassim Base Titanium Community Relations Manager.
Msambweni Deputy County Commissioner Mr Erick Wamulevu who has been mitigating meetings between Base Titanium and the community for a compromise between the two parties stated that the government was keen on ensuring that all rights both on the part of the investor and for the community are respected.
“Our role is to ensure that everything is done according to the law, and the law is simple, Base needs to engage the community and we have seen them engaging the community; and the community must understand that what Base is doing, they are doing on behalf of the government because all minerals belong to the government and they have a licence to do so,” said Wamulevu.
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