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Residents want changes in project document before mining kicks off

By By PHILIP MUASYA | Dec 22nd 2013 | 5 min read


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KENYA: With the impending signing of a contract that would pave way for coal mining in Mui basin, Kitui County, residents are sending mixed signals of skepticism and anxiety over the project whose impact they dont clearly know.

Although Ministry of Energy and Petroleum officials led by Superintending Geologist Joseph Ndolo have been combing the expansive coal belt in blocks C and D to carry out sensitisation, a section of the locals remain clueless on the project touted to bring an economic magic wand to the semi-arid region.

Some of the thorny issues, which the residents feel have been clouded in secrecy, revolve around displacement and resettlement from the project area, as well as compensation when the actual mining starts.

Some of the residents interviewed by The Standard on Sunday seem to indict the community’s liaison committee selected to represent and safeguard their interests and carry out advocacy within the basin for the project to be clearly understood.

“Even today we do not know our fate. All we have been hearing are rumours that we will be relocated, nobody knows to where. Again we do not know about the compensation and how it will be done,” says Munanie Kimanzi of Kalitini area within the basin.

Another resident Muthangya Mavuli from Mui area says some of the community’s representatives have withheld information about the project “for selfish reasons”.

Lingering doubts

“There is need for the Government and our leaders to clear any doubts and worries for the project to succeed,” he says.

Mr Eric Mutua, the chairman of Law Society of Kenya who heads the community’s liaison committee, says his team cannot be accused of failure since the government has failed to give them a budgetary allocation for their mandate.

 “The committee should be adequately facilitated to continually execute its advocacy work to restore public confidence over the proposed coal industry,” says part of a report prepared by Mutua’s team and which has been forwarded to the government. Ndolo says a District Resettlement and Compensation Committee elected from the community will spearhead the resettlement and compensation negotiations between the community and the government.

“It is you who will elect this team, you need to elect selfless people of high integrity,” said Ndolo at Karung’a market during one of the awareness campaigns.

The Government and the community’s representatives, however, seem to have struck a middle ground on fast-tracking the process, and the stage is now set for the signing of the Benefits Sharing Agreement on the Kitui coal project.

Two weeks ago, Mwingi Central Development Forum, which had filed a suit at Machakos High court stopping the government from concluding the mining deal with Fenxi Industry Mining Group withdrew its case.

Mr Peter Musyoka, the lead petitioner in the suit said they were now satisfied with how the government was handling the matter. “We have withdrawn the case after perusing the BSA and being assured that our concerns have been adequately addressed,” said Musyoka.

Won tender

Fenxi won the tender to mine 450 million tones of coal in blocks C and D of Mui basin.

Following weeks of intense scrutiny of the BSA in a series of meetings spearheaded by a technical committee that includes Mr Mutua, Kitui Senator David Musila and Mwingi Central MP Joe Mutambu, the team has made a raft of proposals to be incorporated in the contract document to safeguard the interests of Kitui residents in the mining deal.

The team was tasked to examine and interrogate the yet-to-be-signed contractual document and make a simplified version, highlight clauses that may be in conflict with the interests of Kitui County residents and make recommendations that cater for their welfare.

Its other members were Mrs Nyiva Mwendwa (Kitui Women Rep), Titus Kivaa, Peter Nzuki, George Mulatya (County Executive in charge of environment and mineral resources) and Mr Ndolo representing the Energy ministry. Others were Mrs Eunice Mukungi, Patrick Mwangangi and members of County Assembly; Musee Mulongo (Mui) and Patricia Kisio (Kivou).

Mutua said the team identified 26 clauses that were in conflict with the wishes of Kitui residents and which must be amended. In their proposals, the team demands that Great Lakes Corporation, a partner company of Fenxi cede part of its shareholding to the community.

Terms of plan

The committee also proposes that the investor must prioritise employment of the locals in the coal project and that the national and county governments, investor and the affected residents should agree on the terms of the Resettlement Action Plan.

After the expiry of the mining contract, the team proposes that the land reverts to the community and that land owners be compensated at 70 per cent while the remaining 30 per cent go towards their equity in the coal project in order for them to be entitled to share the profit at an agreed percentage.

Further the team recommends that the coal power plant be set up within Mui Basin and a Special Economic Zone be established in the area to spur economic growth and open up Kitui County for investments and opportunities.

The committee was also concerned on issues relating to corporate social investments and management of environmental and health issues associated with coal mining.

Contract design

“It appears that the participation of Mui basin community and the role of Kitui County Government were downplayed or totally excluded in the design of the contract,” the report notes.

Following a meeting on December 14, at Utalii Hotel in Nairobi, the committee’s report was presented and adopted by Kitui County leaders and other lobby groups in a meeting attended by Musila, Mutambu, Mulatya, Governor Julius Malombe, Cabinet Secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Petroleum Davis Chirchir, his PS Joseph Njoroge, Chief Geologist John Omenge, MCAs Mulongo and Kisio and George Kariithi, the director of Great Lakes Corporation. The proposals have already been forwarded to the Attorney General and Fenxi lawyers with a view of co-opting them in the BSA.

Governor Malombe said it was important to get the process right to avoid disquiet in future. “We must get the process leading to the signing of the contract right and properly documented,” said Malombe.

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