Government plans to put soapstone factory in South Mugirango

Osborne Obara working on the giant soapstone sculpture of prophet Sakawa who is highly revered among the Abagusii Community. [Photo/Edwin Nyarangi/Standard]

The Government has finalised plans to put up a soapstone factory in South Mugirango, Mining Principal Secretary John Omenge has said.

Mr Omenge said the factory would ensure that mined soapstone was not wasted during processing.

“The Government is keen on this issue. We will look thoroughly into all the issues affecting the mining industry in this area and come up with a proper working mechanism,” he said at the weekend.

According to the PS, the Government will provide local miners with the right equipment and ensure that the work environment is conducive and without interference.

“This is an indigenous skill that requires Government input. Unfortunately, we have no market structures and there are environmental issues that need to be addressed. We have several showrooms in this area but the owners don’t get meaningful returns,” he said.

Family business

In Kisii, soapstone mining and carving is often treated as a family business. Most families sell the finished products to interested buyers individually, although some have organised themselves into groups.

Quarry owners hire miners after which middlemen buy 40-tonne lorry-loads of the stone for as low as Sh2,000.

The PS and a team of senior ministry officials are visiting small mining sites around the country in line with the Mining Act 2016.

The Act provides for the establishment of an Artisanal Mining Committee in every county. The committee should comprise a representative of the governor, who shall be the chairperson, the representative of the director of mines who shall be the secretary and three persons who are not public officers and are elected by the association of artisanal miners in the county.

Other representatives include the inspectorate division of the ministry, National Environment Management Authority and a representative of the county land board.