The National government in collaboration with the Kisii County government has moved to streamline mining of soapstone with an aim of benefiting the community by protecting them from exploitation by middlemen.
The move aims to license miners to ensure the activity is carried out procedurally according to the mining act which will give the government revenue and benefit the local community.
The Mining and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary(CS), John Munyes and his Principal Secretary, John Omenge met County leaders from the national and county government with other stakeholders for a public participation session in Tabaka, South Mugirango to deliberate on how to rationalise the sector.
Munyes appealed to stakeholders to support the move, saying other minerals like gemstone in Taita Taveta, gold in Kakamega, petroleum in Turkana and granite in Vihiga were targeted for the same.
“This will not only benefit the community, but leave a legacy for the president, the governor and other leaders too,” said Munyes.
Omenge noted that under the community development agreement reached at after the public participation, artisan miners will be required to form committees that will foresee 70 percent of the proceeds remitted to the government and the rest divided between the community and the licensed mining industry.
In response, Governor James Ongwae however, echoed disagreement by some stakeholders concerning the division of the proceeds, saying the bigger percentage should come back the community.
Ongwae noted that lack of cooperative movement by the artisans led to their exploitation by middle men and called for concerted efforts to help the county benefit from the mineral before it diminishes.
He cited Bogetanda, Boikang’a and Sameta as other areas that have soap stone, adding that streamlining of the sector will help them advance from using the old technology which involves inferior tools, to modern technology which will increase efficiency and reduce job and health hazards.
Saying only professional workmanship would help the community, Senator Sam Ongeri lamented that what was termed as area’s ‘gold’ had not elevated the common man who despite struggling in the mines daily was still languishing in poverty.
The Women Rep, Janet Ongera described the mineral as a rare stone in the region which should benefit the community maximally.
By Jane Naitore/Chrispine Otieno