Kenya has yet to benefit in a major way from its mineral resources, but this appears likely to change with the government making moves to entice more investment in the sector. An airborne survey will be carried out to create a scientific database while the new mines minister has promised to work more closely with the industry, particularly at a local level.
The mining sector accounts for just 1 percent of GDP while the country set up the Ministry of Mining just five years ago and passed legislation for mining in 2016.
Legal experts believe that the country’s mining regulations are generally good but need to be enforced properly to ensure people are given their fair share. At the same time, many recognise that discovery and development of mineral resources should be received with enthusiasm as mining can become a core sector of the country’s revenue, boosting the economy.
As well as some of the traditional minerals, including zinc, Kenya is well endowed with limestone, soda ash, diatomite, fluorspar and gypsum. Oil deposits have also recently been identified in the country’s north. There are five mineral mining blocks in Kenya - the Coast, Eastern, Western, Northern and Rift.
The new Cabinet Secretary of the Ministry of Mining and Petroleum John Munyes says that the country's mining sector has remained largely unexploited due to a lack of updated information on the size of the country's mineral wealth.
To this end, an airborne mineral survey aims to create a scientific database for extractives in an effort to strengthen the mining industry.
"Kenya needs to know the exact size of its mineral wealth so that it can become a mineral hub," Munyes said when he took over the ministry from his predecessor Dan Kazungu, who has been appointed as ambassador to Tanzania.
He has also promised to work with proactive people in the industry to sensitise communities on different matters related to mining. In saying this, he also urged legislators, including government officials, to take part in the sensitisation process.
Munyes says he intends to empower small-scale and artisanal miners so that they can contribute effectively to the industry. He says communities can and should play a bigger role in the mining sector.
In reference to the lack of training and skills for young people interested in mining. Munyes has also promised to facilitate capacity building to ensure the country produces more skilled personnel to drive the sector.
Munyes has also urged Parliament to approve the Mineral Royalty Fund Bill so that communities in mineral-rich area such as Kwale can benefit from natural resources. He notes that several mining activities are ongoing in Kwale, including mining of titanium and exploration for niobium.
Yolanda Torrisi is Chairperson of The African Mining Network and comments on African mining issues and the growing global interest in the continent. Contact:firstname.lastname@example.org