A section of residents from Msambweni sub county in Kwale county have filed a petition with Governor Salim Mvurya over the mineral firm Base Titanium’s motive of expanding its operation in Kwale County.
The Australian firm is seeking to undertake mineral exploration exercise to find additional rare earth deposits to expand its heavy sand mining project as the current mine life at Maumba and Nguluku areas ends in four years’ time.
Irate villagers from Magaoni, Masindeni, Zigira, Majikuko, Fiyoni, Madongoni among others had complained in their petition that the mining activities have brought them a lot of suffering and wanted the county administration to come to their rescue.
They say they have suffered health complications arising from the mining activities in their localities.
Amina Bakari, a resident said they are tired of Base Titanium making false promises to locals that their concerns would be addressed and that the local youth would be hired.
“We were once Base victims and they promised us many things in 2007 when we first paved way for mining and people were not fully compensated some of which were ignored and removed from their ancestral lands, this time we are not ready to suffer,” said Ms. Bakari.
She added that the mining industry relocated them to infertile lands of Bwiti which were completely swampy where only rice can be grown and nothing else productive could be done.
“Governor we want your assistance, we gave our productive land to this people and in turn they sent us to places which we could not even set proper houses for ourselves. Making matters worse they want us to do it again and demand that we exhume the graves of our departed ones and moved with them,” she said as she battled tears.
Ms. Bakari said the company has only brought a lot of havoc to the communities.
She said that diseases like cancer are alleged to have come from bad fumes produced by the firm is consuming them having already killed over 30 people while others are suffering from mysterious ailments.
“They say that the mining process is clean but our people are dying from cancer and already we have buried many of them. Our men have become impotent and women infertile both livestock and humans are now giving birth to premature and handicap offspring,” she said.
The residents told Mvurya that Base Titanium should not be allowed to continue with their exploration and should be ordered to vacate the country once their contract is over.
Through their chairman, Mr. Hamadi Mnyeto, they said that they are against the drilling exercise and the best favour the company can offer them is by leaving their land peacefully.
He decried discrimination in job opportunities saying vacancies were being given to outsiders.
“They should just go, because employment that was promised to us is nowhere to be found. We are the primary people who were supposed to have benefitted from this project but that is the opposite,” said Mr. Mnyeto.
A representative from Inform Action organisation, Uba Suleiman said Base Titanium have failed the community for sidelining them in consultations before embarking on the whole idea of mineral exploration.
Ms. Uba said most people who are complaining were previously affected because the agreement they had with the Australian Mining firm did not end well.
“We as a union are well prepared to see that local’s rights are not being violated,” she said.
Governor Mvurya, however empathized with the residents saying that he will submit the petition to the national government through the relevant ministry for further action.
He promised to stand by the locals until they get their rights respected.
Mvurya also said that the county government did not authorise Base Titanium to carry out the process and that they were against the whole idea right from the start.
“We advised them that before anything people’s concerns should come first. Second we have not given or asked to provide any license authorizing the exploration exercise and so we are against it,” he said.
He asked residents to remain united and observe peace and unity as his administration tries to address the matter with the mining firm and the national government.
By Shaban Omar and Hussein Abdullahi