The National Government is set to establish a soapstone value addition centre in Kisii county to boost the income of local miners.
The Centre which is being set up in collaboration with the County Government will see soapstone cottage industries upgraded to help the locals reap full benefits.
Speaking during a workshop organised for Members of Kisii County Assembly (MCAs) and Association of Leaders of Quarry owners, the Principal Secretary (PS) for Mining, John Omenge, said through the centre, soapstone will be mined, carved, decorated, packed and exported.
Omenge said that the mineral will also be sold locally pointing out that the value addition centre is not a standalone facility but will work with cottage industries in the area to enable local miners reap maximum benefits.
Although the soapstone is in private land, he said, it does not belong to anybody but the National Government which is why it was being harnessed for the benefit of all.
He cautioned those who engaged in illegal mining activities to get licensed or risk being prosecuted.
The PS emphasized the need to ensure proper utilization of the mineral resources found within the area as the first step towards curbing the crude ways of mining that has been adopted over the past decades.
Omenge said the soapstone mining was set to drive the President’s Big Four Agenda under the Manufacturing pillar and so the reason why the sensitisation forum could not have come at a more appropriate time.
He revealed that the Mining Act has provided for how the money obtained from the project will be shared out between the National and County governments together with local communities living around the regions where soapstone was being mined.
“There is the Community Development Agreement Framework which provides that communities living around the area will get a minimum of one percent of the gross revenue which will go towards supporting projects prioritized by the Community,” explained the PS.
The Chairman for Water, Energy and Natural Resources in Kisii County, Bilancia Mature, lauded the move pointing out that local communities have been using traditional mining methods but going forward, the new plan will also address the marketing aspects.
Mature disclosed that the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) has been done to put to rest some fears and speculations over the project’s viability and safety.
By Fredrick Ajok/Joseph Ouma