Kwale residents in new push for share of Base Titanium cash

Residents relocated to pave the way for mining activities by Australia-based firm Base Titanium protest at Bwiti area in Lungalunga, Kwale County. They demanded their share of royalties from the government given to mineral-rich counties.

Photo credit: Siago Cece I Nation Media Group

At least 1,500 Kwale residents relocated to pave the way for mining activities by Australia-based firm Base Titanium want their share of royalties.

The locals lived in the Maumba-Nguluku area.

Royalties are fees paid by the miner to compensate for the natural resources extracted based on their profits.

Through their chairman Gideon Masyoki, the residents said they are the most affected community because they were relocated, their compensation was dismal and promises of royalties have not materialised.

This comes as the National Treasury works to ensure that royalties from the government are given to mineral-rich counties as stipulated in The Mining Act. 

The royalties are shared by the national government, counties and communities on a percentage of 70-20-10, respectively.

Last week, the Treasury published a framework that would see communities finally receive their royalties.

The Maumba-Nguluku community, who were relocated from Msambweni to Bwiti in Lungalunga sub-county, claim that though their land is rich with minerals, they are still languishing in poverty.

“Since we were relocated 15 years ago, some of us have not cultivated on this land and had to use the compensation money to purchase land elsewhere so that we can farm. Many of us have also not been able to develop economically, hence the high rate of poverty,” said Mr Masyoki.

He explained that every member was paid Sh80,000 per acre as compensation, but this was not enough to buy new and fertile land.

Mr Masyoki said that the royalties should be channelled to the accounts of their Maumba-Nguluku Community Based Organisation.

They also want to be allowed to repossess their land once the miner exits so that they can continue farming.

Salim Bakari, another resident of Bwiti, expressed similar concerns, saying that all they wanted was land to cultivate.

“This land where we were relocated to is not appropriate for farming. During the rainy season, it floods and our crops do not survive,” Mr Bakari said.

Ms Rebecca Frank explained that she could not build a new house on her parcel of land, fearing it would sink as the area is swampy.

Ms Frank said it would be unfair if the royalties were distributed to other people who were not severely affected as she was.

Meanwhile, young people in the community have claimed that they did not get the mining jobs that they were promised.

"Among the projects are agribusiness and ecotourism. Once the land is rehabilitated post-mining, we would like to make part of it a museum to draw in tourists and other parts be used for farming,” said Mr Peter Ndung’u.

“The returns of this venture will help in the community projects, especially in the education sector.”

The community also hopes to replant indigenous trees.

Last August, a group of young people under the Kwale Youth Assembly demanded mining royalties from the government that they claimed had accumulated to Sh6 billion over the previous six years.

Base Titanium says all its royalties had been remitted to the government.

The company is set to stop mining activities in 2024 after exhausting the minerals in identified areas.

In the September-December quarter of last year, Base Titanium paid the government Sh3 billion in taxes and royalties.

The payments came after the company reached an agreement with the government to pay higher royalties in exchange for an expanded mining area.

The latest payments add to the billions of shillings that the State has earned from the mining venture in taxes and royalties, making the Kwale operation the most profitable extractive business for Kenya.

Base Titanium plans to expand to other coastal counties if permitted and licensed by the government.

Communities in Kwale who are directly or indirectly affected by mining activities and are expected to receive royalties include those in Lungalunga and Msambweni.