COAL MINING IN KITUI COUNTY. The AEFJN antenna of Nairobi is on the frontline of advocacy against Extractivism in Kenya. Recently, the antenna co-organized a workshop on the Extractive Industry for the stakeholders.
The workshop held in Nairobi brought together representatives from the Ministry of Mining and Members of the National Assembly from Kitui County in the constituencies where coal mining is proposed to begin. The purpose was to address concerns that come with the extraction. This event was organized at Laico Hotel in Nairobi by several partners: civil society, human right groups, KCCB, interfaith, AEFJN Nairobi Antenna, the Media and Kitui County government. Several academicians were invited to give inputs on studies already at hand, the effects and also the implication of the extractive industry to the local community, the government and also the miners themselves. Particular interest was the coal mining project that is being explored in the Mui basin.
Kitui coal mining was proposed in 2003. It was discovered in Mui basin which covers an area of 500 km2. Alongside large deposits of coal, in Mui basin are also significant amounts of iron ore as well as some traces of copper and limestone. The Mui basin is a stretch across Mwingi East and Central, Mutitu and Kitui Central sub-counties. Researches have been on going on confirming viable presence of coal reserves in the area, estimated at 400 Million Tonnes. However due to inadequate preparedness and other logistics necessary for extraction, the operation has not commenced up till date.
The experts described the venture into the coal mining as equally a benefit and as well a disadvantage. They enumerating the scientific reasons on its benefits; energy use, production and manufacture of steel and cement. On one hand, the experts brought to light several strong points of how the discovering and mining of coal in in Kitui County can change the lives of the people in alleviating poverty. But on the other hand, they also underlined how the mining can become the people’s nightmare given the many repercussions that can occur. Leading factor against the coal mining is the environmental degradation, emissions and pollution that is a threat to human and environmental health. “There is a growing mismatch between societal demands for action on climate change and the actual pace of progress with energy demand and carbon emissions growing at their fastest rate for years. The world is on an unsustainable path. This is not a race to renewables but a race to reduce carbon emissions across many fronts” (by Spence dale 68th BP statistical review 2019)
Data was availed to show the global coal demand forecast. Looking at the figures consumption was going up but likely to be affected by the introduction of alternative energy due to growth of natural gas and renewables. Production of steel and cement manufacture are dependent on coal notwithstanding the risks involved.
Among the many companies that have shown interest and have engaged the ministry of mining include are; Palak steel Mill Ltd, Jung’u mining industry Ltd, Fenxi industry mining industry. A benefit sharing agreement (BSA) was signed between Kitui leaders and these firms.
It was reported that the local community has raised objection of the coal mining industry to be started. They have even gone to the court to stop any further exploration of the work.
Partners will make a combined visit to the Mui basin in order to counter check some of the information given. It will also be a chance to report to the community some of the steps taken so far. This expedition will be to see if the local population have taken a different opinion from the previous times.
The Members of Parliament appreciated the efforts of the Church in keeping the advocacy on coal mining industry alive. They noted with gratitude that since the Church continues to bring up issues affecting the people, such workshops have helped in making the Coal among other debates to continue. A lot of study is being done and the local communities are becoming more aware of their rights and obligations towards the use of their resources.
- Lack of quality industry data and minimal technical capacity, Kenya has only 300 geologists.
- Little budget for this sector is allocated and thus compensation will remain a thorny issue that has delayed the start of the project.
- Political interest and negative interference. Such Political intrigues have also stood on the way for the mining of coal to pick up.
- Lack of Peoples enhanced capacity to determine and make a choice
Some alerts for the government and mining companies to consider
- Environmental degradation preparedness
- Pollution and emissions
- Climate change and its effects.
- Public participation
- Safeguard policy, choices and scenarios
- Formation of liaison committee to guide the coal activities and land activities in the area
- carry out civic education and facilitate public participation before undertaking any mining work.
- Widen collaboration in order to re-engage the disengaged and re-inspire the reluctant and disheartened.
AEFJN Nairobi antenna will
- Take the conversation to the grassroots to reawaken and improve quality of public participation – 2020
- Enhance civic education for the local population to attain their right to say “no” – continuous
- Engage the political class and government to avail treaties for public scrutiny by March 2020
- Engage with other partners and ministry of mining to publicize more information – continuous
- Ensure profiling of the companies involved and their countries of origins – June 2020
- Partner with experts and researchers to bring more knowledge of coal mining to the community.
By Fr. Makau Niko, imc