Opposition to expansion of mining activities in Kwale County by Australian mining company Base Titanium, will have far-reaching economic repercussions and should be avoided.
The firm’s acting External Affairs General Manager Mr. Simon Wall said the current mine life ends in four years’ time hence the expansion plan that has been met with resistance from local communities and a section of leaders.
“At stake are all the benefits generated from this project going forward,” said Mr. Wall noting that the profits would continue if only the community consents to the extension of the mine life.
He said in the event their operations stop, it would have a ripple effect on the national and county economy considering that the firm accounts for 65 percent of the country’s total mineral production.
The taxes and royalties they pay would be no more while 800 direct jobs and more that 1, 200 indirect jobs would be lost, he added.
Mr. Wall said the company was set to contribute Sh23billion in taxes to the government over the life of the mine.
“Also to be affected are scholarships to over 2,000 needy students and funding of various community programmes,” Mr. Wall told a team of local and international journalists who were on a two-day tour of the firm’s Kwale mineral sand project.
He said areas where they have been experiencing most resistance against exploration included Magaoni and Zigira but the company is trying to engage the community and all other stakeholders to end the stalemate.
Mr. Wall said sensitization of the community is underway in Vanga in Lunga Lunga Sub-county after acquiring a prospecting license that was approved by the Mineral Rights Board in December.
He lauded the government, saying it was very supportive of its activities as well as in bringing the communities on board as far as mineral exploration and mining were concerned.
However Mr. Wall urged local communities to cooperate saying their goodwill was important to sustainable mineral exploration and mining activities being carried out in the area.
He said even though the company cannot solve all unemployment problems in the region, it was also undertaking viable community initiatives which would benefit them even long after the mining ends.
“This is a win-win situation so that if locals cooperate and support us it will be good for both of us,” said Mr. Wall.
He said they have created social infrastructure that will be available even after exiting the region. They include electricity, roads, water dam and schools.
Others that were aligned to the Big Four Agenda include health facilities, food security projects and manufacturing through the proposed construction of a cotton ginnery for value addition.
The outgoing External Affairs Manager Mr. Joe Schwartz said that despite the company’s good work, attempts to expand have been met with constant community hostilities which need to be addressed to secure the mining future in the region.
“We have tried reaching out to the locals using their leaders and administration but there isn’t much to write home about,” he said.
“Some politicians seemingly feel so insecure and think that their political base is undermined when locals are relocated to pave way for mining hence decide to spread propaganda about us,” he claimed.
He said it was upon the community to decide because time was running out. “So, if they want us to go, surely we will pack our bags and go when the time comes but before that, they should think of the benefits accruing from mining in this area,” said Mr. Schwartz.
By Shaban Omar/James Muchai