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Migori: 32 arrested as state cracks down on illicit mining operations

PS for Mining Elijah Mwangi speaking to a section of miners arrested for operating illegal mining operation at Rongo Sub-County.

The government has launched a massive crackdown targeting illegal mining operations across Kenya with 32 illegal miners of different nationalities running multi-million illicit mining facilities being nabbed on the first day of the operation in Migori County.

The operation to arrest the non-compliant miners and subsequent closure of their illicit operations was spearhead by the Principal Secretary (PS) Mining Elijah Mwangi in conjunction with officers from the Mining Police Unit and Migori County Security Team under the guidance of the County Commissioner Mr. David Gitonga.

Speaking at Kitere village in Rongo sub-county after the arrest of the first batch of foreign nationals running a multi-million gold mining operation on Thursday, the PS stated that there would be no compromise for any mining operation including exploration, exploitation, processing, trading or dealing with minerals that was running without the necessary licenses and permits.

“As a country, we continue to lose a lot of revenue from these operations that are operating without licenses. The bottom line is they must apply for licenses and pay the required royalty to the government to continue operating,” he said.

He further noted that the Mining Act of 2016 obligated the miners to remit royalty to the government for sharing with the national government, the county government and the local community on the basis of 70 percent, 20 percent and 10 percent respectively.

The immediate local community where the mining operation is based is also entitled to an additional one percent revenue from the gross sales of mineral by a mining enterprise.

The PS said none of the shuttered mining operations had legal documentation to support their operations.

“The communities that are essentially supposed to benefit from these resources are living in destitute while the illegal miners mint fortunes. This must stop because the people must benefit from their resources,” he said.

Mr. Daniel Adunda, a local resident of Kitere village, termed the government’s action against the illegal mining operations as a long-overdue intervention that will streamline the sector.

He explained that apart from the major gold processing plant in the area alienating their land, the facility had started dumping toxic waste perilously near the main river which posed a serious health risk to thousands of residents.

“We have been helpless against taking action these operations because they have been acting with impunity and total disregard of the law. We are glad that they now realize there is government that protects the poor,” he said.

The operation was conducted across Migori county including Rongo, Awendo, Suna East and Nyatike sub-counties led to several arrests and shutting down of operations.

Some of these illegal mining operations were so well-grounded that they were operating with a fully-equipped laboratory, a magazine for storage of explosives and detonators and gold processing plant.

The crackdown on illegal mining activities across Kenya is set to continue as the government intensifies hunt for revenue from mineral resource in the country. Currently, the mining sector despite its vast potential contributes a mere one percent to the National Gross Domestic Product (GDP).

Challenges including illegal operations, not remitting of royalties and non-disclosure of production volumes have adversely affected the performance of the sector in terms of contribution to the national growth.

The current drive is intended to bring all mineral operations into operating under the law and increase the sector’s contribution to the GDP into at least 10 percent.

The PS stated that at the heart of this continuous operation is to have the communities in mining areas get their rightful benefits from mineral resources and promote development in areas where the mining activities take place.

“The bottom line is the government, both national and counties, and the communities hosting the mineral resource must benefit from these mining operations. This means compliance for investors is mandatory,” he explained.

The multi-agency crackdown will continue across Kenya and will target all areas of sector including mining, trading, dealing and processing of minerals including operating of elution, leaching and smelting plants.

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