The government has suspended all mining activities at Old Macalder Copper mines in Nyatike Sub County of Migori and ordered all machinery at the site impounded.
The Mining and Petroleum Principal Secretary (PS), John Omenge while speaking at Macalder mines regretted that people not licensed by the Ministry of Mines and Petroleum were illegally carrying out mining activities at the site.
The PS directed police to impound heavy trucks and excavators found operating at the mines pending the prosecution of owners for carrying out mining activities without following the due legal process.
Omenge revealed that a delegation from Macalder visited his office in Nairobi asking him to stop what the locals termed as ‘heavy illegal mining’ at Macalder.
He said police should investigate and charge the owners of the machinery at the site.
The PS said the government had tolerated minor artisanal mining which should be done under strict regulations but not the use of unlicensed machines.
Omenge noted that there was no single licensed mining company in Migori County adding that anyone carrying outmining activities is doing it illegally.
He further stopped the registration of more Leaching Plants operating in Migori County.
Currently there are more than 60 Leaching Plants at the mining sites in Migori County some of them are not registered according to reports from mining officials in Migori County.
According to Omenge, the government was keen on reducing exposure of mercury to artisanal miners by advising the use of alternative processing methods for instance Gold Dressing Agent which is now popular in some countries than sodium cyanide which is believed to be more harmful.
However a section of locals present at Macalder said the trucks and other heavy machinery present were not being used for mining but to clear already processed soil at the side.
They pleaded with PS Omenge to reconsider banning of mining in Macalder as it was their economic mainstay.
Security agencies led by Migori County Commissioner, Joseph Rotich and County Police Commander, Joseph Nthenge agreed to enforce the government directive to stop illegal mining in Macalder until the due procedure is followed.
By Geoffrey Satia