Residents stir fresh storm over Flourspar land compensation

Friday, January 15th, 2021 00:00 |
Work at the Flouspar Mining Company. Photo/PD/File

Wycliffe Kipsang

The row surrounding the compensation of residents displaced to allow for the construction of Fluorspar Mining Company in Elgeyo-Marakwet County took a new twist after locals demanded Sh4 million per acre.

The residents have also complained that the Sh1 billion set aside by the government for compensation is too little and are now demanding Sh9 billion after they were rendered homeless from their 9,070 acres of ancestral land.

“We want private valuation carried out since the government agencies are likely to underestimate the cost of the subjecting more families to further social-economic suffering,” said Isaiya Chemase, one of the residents.

The residents were displaced from their Kimwarer Sugutek land over 50 years ago to pave way for the Kenya Fluorspar Company to carry out mining activities.

The state has embarked on a vetting process to determine who will benefit from the Sh1 billion.

Mining and Petroleum CS John Munyes yesterday acknowledged that there are many underlying issues before the compensation billions is released to the families as directed by President Uhuru Kenyatta on a tour of the region. 

Many former workers of the mining company, most of who are now aging and sickly, said that they have lost all hope of ever receiving their dues. 

Many others have passed on while still waiting to be paid their hard earned cash.

More than 30 specialists including plant operators, mechanics and engineers who used to work in the company are a disillusioned lot after they were paid a mere Sh10,735,510 as termination benefits with Sh112,466,443 still pending.

In total, the troubled factory had more than 2,000 workers serving in different cadres.

Moses Seget, 60, from Kimwarer in Elgeyo Marakwet is just one of the former workers whose life has forever changed after he sustained an injury in the line of duty in 1994. He walks with a limp.

Seget who used to work as a payroll officer slipped and broke his left leg in the process leaving him with life threatening injuries. He stayed in hospital for many months after undergoing a series of operations.

“I got some compensation but that was nothing compared to the injuries I sustained.

The fact that I received retrenchment letter while still bedridden is in itself the highest degree of injustice,” Seget told People Daily in an interview.

The father of four who worked for 14 years was paid Sh199,000 as termination dues while a whooping Sh6,980,338 is still pending 23 years after he was retrenched.

“Many of us have underwent a lot of challenges in catering for our families. Many of my colleagues’ children are at home due to lack of school fees. Others have been reduced to paupers at Kimwarer shopping centre,” said Seger. 

According to Munyes, the government and the National Land Commission (NLC) are in the final stages of compiling a list of those who will benefit from the funds.

“Land rates have changed over the years. The compensation process has been slow due to lack of clarification on those who had been compensated in the past,” he said. 

He said that there were enough fluorspar deposits to last the country for more than 30 years. 

“We want to conclude the entire compensation process before a new investor starts mining after the previous one pulled out,” said the Munyes.

The residents have also demanded that that thousands of workers affected by the company’s closure be considered for employment should a new investor take over the management of the factory. 

The company started in 1970 as Fluorspar Company of Kenya but went into receivership a year later giving birth to Fluorspar Company Kenya Limited managed by the government but its problems started in 1994 after business started going down.

The Mining ministry has assured the residents that the government will compensate all genuine individuals irrespective of how they want the process to be implemented.

Munyes said that the government will strictly comply with the law in the compensation process.

“We don’t want double compensation. That’s why we’ve given ourselves more time  to finalize the exercise,” said  Munyes.

Fluorspar which was being mined at Kerio Valley is wholly exported. It is transported by road to Flax Trading Centre where it’s loaded to wagons and transported by train to Mombasa.

South Africa produces 300,000 tonnes annually, Morocco 100,000 tonnes while Kenya produces an average of 120,000 tonnes but the depressed market has impacted negatively to the once lucrative mineral sector.

In Kenya, the fluorspar used in the manufacture of fluoride for cooling plants is mined in Keiyo South Sub-county, forming part of riches of Kerio Valley.

According to the residents, in total more than 10,000 people were depending directly and indirectly on the factory for their livelihood.

Musa Wendot, a former transporter at the mining company said that their lives have been thrown into disarray following the closure of the factory two years.

“The compensation process should be well spelled out. We also suggest that we are given some shares in the company for us to continue enjoying this resource which is in our locality,” said Wendot.

Among contentious issues which are likely to delay the compensation procedure include valuation for land and assets owned by the residents, identification of genuine beneficiaries and the mode of payment.

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