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Communities could have the power to decide on any mining activities in their areas.
This proposal is contained in a model law pushing for public participation that was drafted by an alliance of civil societies in Africa.
The legislation, released last week, is intended to be used by civil society organisations and policy makers to advocate reforms in mining policies across the continent.
“Communities whose land is most endowed with resources are usually among the poorest because they do not benefit from the extractive activities,” said Maghenda Mwikamba, the chairman of the International Alliance on Natural Resources in Africa (IANRA).
In the current scenario, governments have the final word on land-use, with individuals or communities pushed out through compulsory acquisition.
The model law also seeks to provide recourse for communities that have been negatively impacted by mining activities.
Kenya is currently working on a new mining law to replace the existing one developed in the 1940s when the country was still a British colony.
Clauses in the draft Mining Bill, which is before Parliament, seek to enhance public involvement before any extraction activities are started, while stressing the need for equitable sharing of benefits.
Over 300 delegates representing community leaders, local authorities, government, civil society, policy makers, regional bodies, media and mining companies met at Olkaria, Naivasha, to witness the launch of the model law.
IANRA was co-hosting the event with KeNRA, an alliance of civil society and community-based organisations in Kenya.
Mr Mwikamba also unveiled a study done on five countries that showed current mining laws “were drafted to the benefit of the mining companies and the respective governments”.
He added that the proposed law was developed from views of the community after carrying out research in five countries.
“It is the first time we are having law developed from the community, unlike others that are endorsed by governments. This is a product that, if well utilised, will resolve a number of issues arising in different mining sites in Africa,” he said.
The document got a boost after it was endorsed by the Pan African Parliament, Africa Mineral Development Centre and Southern Africa Development Community Parliamentary Forum. Richard Rop, the county executive for environment and natural resources in Nakuru County, also said the model law would inform ongoing legislation on extractive activity.
“The Constitution gives us powers to come up with laws at the county level. I have interacted with the document and there are a number of principles we can adopt as we make our laws,” he said.