Gold mining in Migori is in the grip of a political quagmire. Its most recent political trudge was last week when gold miners held a consultative talk with the government and bitterly warned area politicians with vested interests in the mining sector to keep off their affairs.
During the talks graced by the Mining and Petroleum Cabinet Secretary (CS), John Munyes, the gold miners claimed such politicians have caused the widespread poverty being witnessed among the small-scale miners in the region.
The one-day meeting in Migori town took the route of countering the interests of a clique of very powerful county politicians who the participants accused of being out to control the multi-million sector in the region at all cost.
The political control of mining activities in this area has facilitated the looting of the county’s huge revenue from gold and copper, the miners reported to the CS without mincing their words.
Some of the senior politicians in the region were said to have been colluding with foreign companies which have acquired mining licenses via unclear means, a move that has consequently threatened to totally push out many artisan miners from the business.
One senior politician was reported to have brought in heavy mining machines and has, through massive political influence, acquired chunks of gold-rich land sites to carry out mining at the expense of the small-miners in the region.
The Nyatike MP, Tom Odege has in the recent days threatened to mobilise all the artisan miners to eject foreign investors of Chinese nationality who he accused of working in cahoots with some influential politicians in the region to exploit the local people.
He claimed that the foreigners were getting protection from their politician friends, the local administration and police even when they lacked proper licenses allowing them to prospect for the adored minerals in the area.
“Petty mining politics have become the bane of our leaders. If anyone expects to get rich by exploiting the miners, they should expect disappointment,” snapped Mr. John Okello, who said he has been in that business for the past one decade.
However, Munyes assured the miners that efforts were being made to streamline the sector through infusion of acts of laws that would be able to benefit all stakeholders in the sector.
“We are keen to make the mining sector favourable to all through introduction of acts of law that will protect all those prospecting for minerals including small-scale miners,” said the CS.
The mining sector in Migori is one of the most unexploited areas possessing massive potential to transform the region’s economic fortunes.
However, bickering among leaders, lack of skilled miners, poverty and lack of requisite mining equipment have contributed to the death of the mining industry which the government is struggling to address.
The backdrop to the grievances emanating from the small miners is both political and economic. From the political front, the crisis arises from the fact that a few influential politicians are using their powers to drive the small miners to the peripheries.
While on the other hand, they use their financial might to mess up with the efforts of the artisans by grabbing all the available markets and leaving the helpless local miners in the hand of brokers who seriously exploit them by paying them peanuts for their hard-earned minerals.
By George Agimba