Government to start arbitrating over disputes in mining areas

The government will undertake arbitration over mining disputes in Taita Taveta county.

Mining Cabinet Secretary (CS), Dan Kazungu said the government will arbitrate between all parties fighting over mining rights in the area since protracted judicial processes on mining cases were denying the country billions of shillings in revenue from the mining sector.

Speaking in Voi on Saturday, Kazungu said the government was losing huge amounts of money from idle mines as disputants waited for courts to issue a verdict.

He said that the government, through his Ministry, will step in and reconcile the disputants.

The CS was on an inspection tour of the shs. 60 million Voi Gemology Centre where he expressed confidence that the project will be ready by December this year.

He noted that the bulk of the cases were between land owners and consent-seekers; an issue he said could be resolved through open dialogue.

The CS further revealed that most cases have been dragging on in courts for over 20 years and stated such a scenarios had totally sabotaged the mining and economic potential of the region.

“When a case takes over twenty years to be determined, that translates to a massive loss for the investors, landowners, community and the government as no mining will take place until the verdict is issued”, he said.

Kazungu stated that the government will not sit back as mines with potential to generate billions for the economy lay idle as litigants fought long court battles.

He warned that should the government efforts fail to reconcile the two disputants, a decision will be made on the best solution that supports the larger good for most members in the society, with or without the agreement of the disputants.

The CS was accompanied by Environment Principal Secretary, Dr. Margaret Mwakima, Mining Principal Secretary, Dr. Ibrahim Mohammed, Benson Mwangi, the Chair of the Gemology Centre, Ray Mwangola, the Chair of County Assembly Committee on Mining and a host of other Members of County Assembly. Small-scale miners from the region were also in present.

Since Tuesday, the CS has been holding intense talks with several parties engaged in disputes and noted that most were willing to withdraw court cases after reaching agreements during the talks

Already, he has resolved 13 disputes after meeting with the disputants.

He called for sobriety in solving the disputes but warned of severe action against breaking the law.

Taita-Taveta County has vast deposits of gemstones and other precious stones but mining has been hampered by dozens of cases in courts.

This has seen the sector slump as parties await court decisions. One of the oldest cases pitted Muthoni Kihara, an investor, against a landowner over the mining rights.

The case, which has been in court since 1999, has seen the once Muthoni Kihara Mines in Mwatate sub-county halt its operations and equipment worth millions of shillings rot away inside Kutima Investment Limited.

At the center of the case is a consent dispute with the investor stating that he had been granted consent by the former land owner while Kutima Investment Limited, the new land owner, states that the miner had to seek a new consent.

Kazungu noted that such cases could be resolved easily if all parties were willing to cede ground and arrive at a consensus.

The economic survey for 2016 revealed that mining sector had in 2015 generated shs. 24.2 billion shillings.

This was a 14.7 per cent rise from shs. 21 billion realized in 2014. However, the rise was attributed to higher earnings from titanium minerals of illmenite, rutile and zircon in the exports market.

The CS said that mining of precious stones like rubies, Tsavorites and green garnets could equally contribute billions in the economy if the sector was streamlined.

He also stated that miners must always seek consent from the land owners before starting mining activities.

Kazungu noted that the holder of the title deed was legally recognized as the landowner and any investor must seek consent before starting mining in such land.

The CS cited a case of Wanjala Iron Ore Mining Company at Kishushe which had stopped its operations after a dispute over consent with the locals.

Kazungu said that Kishushe Cooperative Society had a title deed to prove land ownership and asked Wanjala Mining to seek consent from the members

He said that any contestation of the validity of the title deed should be done at Ministry of Lands.

“The Ministry of Mining cannot ascertain the authenticity of land ownership document. If one suspects the document is forged or it was obtained fraudulently, the only place to go is Ministry of Lands”, he said.

The CS also decried the exploitation of women and youth in the mining sector warning that the government would take stern action against such actions.

He noted that women were being threatened and abused by miners and investors; an issue he said his ministry was following very closely to ensure perpetrators of such actions would be punished.

Source: Kenya News Agency