The government has announced plans to construct four state-of-the-art mineral processing plants in four counties to transform the artisanal mining sector and boost the economy.
Fredrick Ndambuki, the Secretary Administration in the State Department of Petroleum and Mining, said the potential in the mining sector has not yet been exploited, adding the government was committed to enabling miners at all levels to benefit from the sector’s full potential.
Ndambuki was speaking on Wednesday during the closing ceremony for the second biennial conference on sustainable development in the extractive industry in Africa.
The conference hosted under the Center of Excellence for Mining, Environmental Engineering and Resource Management (CEMEREM) had brought together scholars, mining experts and stakeholders from Kenya, United Kingdom and Germany.
“The potential of the mining sector in Kenya is very vast but we have not yet exploited it fully. This is what the government is committed to achieve,” he said.
Already, the government has established a Gemology Processing Centre in Voi that will be commissioned before the end of the year. In Kakamega, the ministry of Mining and Petroleum will build a gold refinery to process gold found in the region.
In Vihiga County, the government will construct a granite plant while in Kisii County, there will be a Soapstone Centre for processing and refining of soapstone.
The establishment of such facilities is expected to boost the production capacity of small-scale and artisanal miners and empower them to make meaningful earnings from the mining sector.
Ndambuki further said the government was keen on improving the mining sector by making policies that encouraged the sector to thrive.
He cited the Mining Act 2016 which he said promoted benefits sharing for all stakeholders in the mining field.
Ndambuki also said that the government had drafted laws that compelled large scale miners to engage in programmes intended to empower communities around the mining zones.
He added that application of technology in mining would unlock the full potential of the sector which will be given a boost by research.
Already, plans are underway to establish a National Mining Institute at Taita-Taveta University in Mwatate Sub County.
Rev. David Zowe, the Chairperson for artisanal miners in Taita-Taveta County, said there was need for mining empowerment programs to be cascaded to the grassroots to benefit the local residents, noting such programs should include means by which artisanal miners can get access to credit and equipment to make their activities more efficient.
“The artisanal miners are the majority and lie at the bottom of the mining chain. If they are empowered, they can contribute meaningfully to nation building,” he said.
The Vice Chancellor of TTU, Prof. Fred Barasa said the university will partner with government and other institutions to boost research and offer world-class training on mining sector.
By Wagema Mwangi