The Ministry of Petroleum and Mining has moved to quell a disquiet spreading amongst miners and ranchers in Taita-Taveta County following reports that a regional mining company has applied for a graphite prospecting license that covers over 95,000 acres.
The Mining Cadastre Portal under the State Department of Mining shows that Innovative Geoscience and Mining Limited applied for a prospecting license on 17th August this year to prospect for graphite over an area equivalent to ninety-five square kilometers.
According to the company’s website, Innovative Geoscience deals with industrial minerals, precious metals, base and rare earth metals. It has also engaged in gold mining in Uganda. The company targets to mine graphite along Mngama Ridge. The pegged land cuts across several ranches in Taita Taveta County.
Though the application is pending verification, there has been increasing unease from stakeholders in the mining sector and ranchers in the region who called for disclosure of the company’s full intent.
Rev. David Zowe, chairperson for Taita-Taveta Artisanal Miners, said anxiety has largely stemmed from the vast size of pegged land. He added small-scale miners and artisanal miners feared potential areas they might mine would be taken over by the company and lock them out from accessing mining zones.
“Most artisanal miners lack financial muscle to peg such huge areas. They fear they will be elbowed out if firms start acquiring huge land parcels,” Zowe said.
Ranchers Chairperson Bong’osa Mcharo, on his part said the association would engage mining officials in the region to ask for more details on the pegged land which is suspected to have fallen across many ranches.
“We will find out more on the land size and what the company wants through engaging the mining office in the county,” he said.
However, regional mining officer Mr. David Irungu has allayed fears triggered by the company’s prospecting license noting prospecting was different from mining. He assured there are many other procedures to be adhered to before actual mining starts.
“The company has asked for permission to go and find out if there are mineral deposits and if they are of viable quantities. They are not mining,” he explained.
He added that if the application is granted, the company would then move to the ground to engage landowners in the process to verify the presence and quantities of deposits. If the deposits are viable, the company will then engage the landowners for consent to do the actual mining.
He assured the residents that the law on mining stipulated that no mining would take place on land before the miner get a consent from the land owners. “This should address their fears of mining activities taking place without engaging local landowners,” he said.
Chairperson of Mwatate Small Scale Miners and dealers Mr. Bakari Kalema said pegging of potential land for mining was the first step before prospecting adding; “The pegging was done online at the mining cadastre to ensure there was no double pegging of a land already allocated to another miner.”
“The mining cadastre map shows all land taken and not taken. It is impossible to peg a land twice. This eliminates the potential of conflict amongst miners,” he further explained.
By Wagema Mwangi