Sh150m row threatens iron mining in Taita Taveta

Kishushe mining site

Kishushe iron ore mining site in Taita Taveta County. Lucy Mkanyika | Nation Media Group

Photo credit: Lucy Mkanyika | Nation Media Group

The future of the iron ore mining site in Kishushe, Taita Taveta County, hangs in the balance following an impasse between landowners and Samruddha Resources Kenya Limited. 

The Kishushe Ranching Cooperative Society Ltd has been accusing the investor of failing to adhere to their agreement and declaring that the company was in breach of the mining consent.  

The management of the ranch claims that they are owed by the mining company over Sh150 million and have already withdrawn their consent of mining, transportation and selling of the iron ore from the area. 

The opposition by the land owners and some political leaders now threatens the future of the mining company in the area. 

With the main bone of contention being the issue of benefits emanating from the sale of the minerals through royalties and Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), local leaders led by Governor Andrew Mwadime and Wundanyi MP Danson Mwashako said the resource has not benefited the residents.  

"I want to assure the residents that we will work as leaders to ensure that the iron ore mined there benefits them," the governor said.  

Mr Mwashako added that the residents are suffering yet the resource could change their lives. 

He said locals have never benefited from the vast resource of iron ore which has been mined for decades. 

"For more than ten years these residents have not seen any benefits from the iron ore mining. The residents are incurring losses from the mining activity," he said. 

He accused the investor of failing to do any project for the community and failed to remit any funds to the Community Development Agreement Committee (CDAC).

The MP said the community is owed by Samruddha company over Sh50 million for the implementation of projects designed to benefit the community through CDAC. The MP said the residents have not benefited from any project by the investor.

"Our children are not going to school because of lack of fees and hunger. They (Samruddha) are exporting and selling our raw iron ore while the community remains behind with nothing to show and some are ailing from dust emanating from the lorries that transport the ore. But we also want to know how much they have so far remitted to the committee," he said.  

The MP said together with other leaders they will push to ensure the residents benefit from the resource.  

The ranch chairperson Chombo Shete said they had agreed with the investor to pay Sh100 million as a goodwill payment and also to pay Sh50 per tonne of iron ore transported from the site for export. 

He said other issues agreed upon in the agreement included the procurement of a water rig and payment of Sh10 million for corporate social responsibility (CSR), which has not been done. 

Mr Shete said the investor owed over Sh150 million, adding that for six years, the company has only remitted Sh34 million to the ranch's account.

A week ago, the locals had demonstrated outside the mine. The protracted battle has threatened to stall operations at the iron ore company with the landowner wanting the investor to pay up or leave the mine. 

The company entered into an agreement with the Kishushe Ranching Cooperative Society Ltd in 2014, for the right to enter into the 60,000-acre land and prospect, excavate, store, stack, process, transport, and sell all industrial minerals mined. 

The license was varied by a variation agreement dated June 9, 2018, but the Society withdrew its consent in 2020 to bar the mining of iron ore within their ranch over claims of breach of the agreement. 

In the same year, the court issued interim conservatory orders to allow the company to continue mining until the dispute is resolved.

"We withdrew the mining consent after the investor declined our efforts to resolve the issues. The investor has refused to listen to the ranch's committee and has refused to work with the CDAC," Mr Shete said. 

"We know that the licence expired and as landowners, we have not given them consent to operate. What we want is our money and nothing else." 

Last week, Mining Cabinet Secretary Salim Mvurya accompanied by his PS Elijah Mwangi, Governor Mwadime and some local leaders visited the disputed mine to intervene in the situation.  

The CS said the failure of the firm to remit one percent of its annual revenue to the CDAC for projects was illegal.  

"The Mining Act 2016 provides that all mining firms must ensure that residents benefit from the venture. We are not pleading for this because it is enshrined in the law," the CS said. 

He said his department will intervene to resolve the dispute pitting the investor and the residents.  

He said his ministry will sit with the National Land Commission, local leaders and the two warring sides to agree on the way forward. 

"I have received your petition and I promise to work on it. The President sent me here to come to see where the problem is and I will call your leaders to work together in resolving the issues," he said.