State to gazette 4 new sites with huge mining potential
Steve Umidha @UmidhaSteve
The government has approved four new mining regions, paving way for their gazettement and official entry into the lucrative multi-billion sector.
Petroleum and Mining CS John Munyes said Narok, Kisii, Turkana and West Pokot regions were selected as suitable areas to spur development of artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector in the country.
“We will in the next few weeks gazette these regions. We will, however, issue modalities on the same,” he said yesterday during a virtual forum dubbed Formalisation and Funding of the ASM sector in Kenya.
The new mining sites will add to Kakamega, Vihiga, Siaya, Migori, Kitui and Kwale which had been gazetted for active mining activities.
According to the Mineral Rights Board, untapped mineral sector has the potential of earning the country $6.6 billion (Sh712 billion) or 12 per cent of the gross domestic product (GDP) from the minerals sector. Currently, the sector contributes less than one per cent to the GDP.
Lack of a geological database is among the major impediments for large-scale exploitation, with the government now keen to develop the nascent sector further.
A nationwide aerial survey to map Kenya’s mineral hotspots, which would attract foreign direct investment, will be completed soon amid to determine the country’s mineral wealth.
The ministry has since requested for additional funding to help upscale its staff and set up regional offices to meet those efforts.
“Small scale miners need to be supported at this point if we are to grow this sector beyond its current contribution to the national GDP,” said Munyes.
It is estimated that the ASM sector employed an estimated 140,000 ASM miners as of 2018.
Out of these, 10,000 miners produce and trade about $h120 million in gemstones per year, representing local contribution to the economy of roughly $80 million per year.
The government had proposed to increase the mining sector’s contribution to 10 per cent of GDP by 2030 through value addition and the implementation of new policies with the Coastal regional for instance uniquely positioned to establish a signature gemstone market for significant development of the ASM market.
Currently, known minerals in the country include gold, zinc, copper, coal, dimension stone, gemstones, soda ash, fluorspar, diatomite, ruby, carbon dioxide, oil, titanium, mercury and gypsum.
Meanwhile, the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining yesterday said it will consider extending beyond October next year prospecting and mining licenses to Australian mining company–Base Titanium, with two months left on its current mine life.
A government moratorium on the issuance of Prospecting Licenses in November 2019 has affected the progress of all license applications.
Equally, a ‘technical hitch’ had also delayed the assessment process of applications which recommenced in March.
Base is among other mining firms that will also be keen to acquire a ‘Social license’ from the ministry.
Community compensation programmes have been a major issue in mega investments in the country, with political interference slowing down projects.