What next for mining fields as Base Titanium tenure ends?

While the company prepares to close down the site, the local communities are pondering their next source of income as over 1,600 workers stand to be rendered jobless and numerous projects and funding coming to an end.

Among the beneficiaries of the exploration and mining is Bomamani village elder Suleiman Kassim who received millions of shillings for his three acres and built a magnificent estate for his three wives and sons and now plans to marry a fourth wife.

Kassim regards himself a rich man, having moved from a mud and makuti house that he once shared with his wife and children, to a modern stone-walled bungalow in the village.

General Manager for External Affairs at the Base Titanium Mining Company, Simon Wall, at the company's rehabilitation agricultural area in Nguluku Senda Village, Kwale County. [Robert Menza, Standard]

Omar says youths were coming up with projects that were costly and not prioritised on the funds given by Base Titanium.

"We have 17 projects including scholarship to needy students. The budget was Sh160 million and the project in Msambweni cost Sh140 million. So we contribute Sh15 million to scholarship projects," says Omar.

He says they also have done a six-kilometre tarmac in Kinondo and rehabilitated and put up perimetre wall in schools and upgraded a maternity with four-bed capacity.

"We have done two dormitories in school with a 100 bed capacity. Right now there is a school we are putting up perimetre walls to deter machete youths who defiled a girl at Waa Girls in Matuga constituency," says Omar.

He says the CEDC has an empowerment fund to boost small businesses in terms of grants and loans and they collaborate with Kinondo village Bank which received Sh5 million to lend out to the community and after its success, they shall add another Sh5 million.

The company has also endeavored to plant between 50,000 to 60,000 trees annually in an effort to restore the forest and wetlands. Wall says the society and wildlife will also benefit from the Mkurukuti dam that holds 8.6 million cubic metres of water.

According to Said Mwang'azi Chair of Magaoni Community Development where exploration of titanium is ongoing, the locals hope that the company will get enough titanium to commence mining with hopes to benefit.

Mwang'azi says to promote locals, the company buys tree seedlings and the community helps in planting them.

Wall points out that the government was able to benefit from a direct revenue of Sh29.3 billion (US$246 million), Sh5.9 billion (US$43.6 million) in Pay as You Earn (PAYE) and an additional Sh246 million (US$1.8 million) in Non-Refundable VAT.

Base titanium Port Manager Elizabeth Ndanu says they have been exporting between 17 to 18 vessels per year, with China being the number one importer from Kenya. Ndanu says there has been an increased demand in the local market.