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Government urges artisanal miners to venture into industrial mineral sector

One of the miners emerging from a mining shaft at the CBO during the PS’s tour.

The government has urged community-based mining organisations around the country to diversify into large-scale mining of industrial minerals, a field that has been a preserve for large mining firms.
Mining Principal Secretary(PS) Mr. John Omenge said there was need for small-scale miners to embrace the massive potential in industrial minerals like iron, copper, manganese and graphite amongst others as part of government’s initiative to expand the technical support extended to miners.
The PS was speaking during a tour of Chawia Community Based Organisation (CBO) mining site in Mwatate on Tuesday.
During the tour, the PS noted that most artisanal miners had focused in mining of precious minerals including gemstones, gold, rubies, pearls and tourmalines which were deemed to be less-labour intensive and brought quick financial returns.
“It is time for CBOs to think beyond precious minerals and focus on industrial minerals which can transform lives of thousands of miners,” he said.
The PS was accompanied by senior mining officials including Director of mines Raymond Mutiso, Coast Regional Geologist Paul Mwadime and Inspector of Mines Thomas Mutua amongst others.
He noted that the mining industry was at the center of actualising the government’s Agenda Four development initiatives through the provision of affordable and quality building materials to support the construction of affordable houses.
Mr. Omenge stated that no country has ever become industrialised without the help of minerals and stated that Kenya’s goal to becoming an industrialised nation was pegged on how well the ministry exploited its mining potential.
“All developed countries made use of their minerals and those without, imported from other countries. With what we have, we can be the engine that drives growth for Kenya,” he said.
The PS said the government was committed to offering both technical and financial support to miners provided they were well organised and committed to their work.
To enhance cooperation between government and artisanal miners, the PS said the Mining Act 2016 has authorised for the formation of 47 county-based mining committees to spearhead growth of mining sectors in their respective regions.
The four-member committees will be chaired by an appointee of the governor with extensive knowledge on mining.
Other members will include a representative of the Director of Mines, an environmental expert and an official from the Ministry of Lands and Physical Planning.
Mr. Gabriel Mcharo,the chairperson of the Chawia CBO, said that the mining activities in the region had been badly affected by politics with most investors withdrawing their financial support for the miners.
He appealed to the government to find ways of assisting the miners including provision of equipment.
“Politics hit us hard as our investors fled. We are now asking for resources and machines to help us get back to work,” he said.
In 2016, the CBO had over 3,000 miners but only a few hundreds are now left. Allegations of mismanagement of funds, squabbles amongst officials and lack of sound policy to manage the mines were cited as some of the reasons for the downfall of the CBO.
Mr. Benson Mwangi, the chair of the gemstone Center, said the miners needed to utilise the gemstone center where their precious stones would be valued correctly.
He warned that selling gemstones in the black market only impoverished the miners.
“Sell the gemstones where they can be valued correctly for you to benefit,” he said.
Mr. Omenge also toured the sh50-million Gemology center in Voi town to access its readiness to start operations on value-addition to all gemstones mined in the country.
He expressed his satisfaction with the building and strategic plans stating that the government was keen to have the center start receiving gemstones for packaging.
By Wagema Mwangi

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