Resting at the bottom of one of the rocky terrain, which is part of the Nandi Hills escarpment, in Chemase area in Tinderet Constituency, is the imposing Karebe Gold Mining Ltd, which has been mining economically significant tonnes of gold since 2009.
Although it is a relatively small-scale gold miner, the company has already established itself as one of the two main gold miners in the country. The other one is Killimapesa Gold Limited, whose mining operations are currently located in the historically productive Migori Archaean Greenstone Belt.
However, Karebe Gold Mining Ltd faces imminent disruption of its operations from an energised campaign orchestrated by local politicians, including the newly elected Nandi Senator Samson Cherargey and the owner of the six- acre piece of land where it is exploring the precious stones.
There is also unsettling noise from the area Member of the County Assembly (MCA) and some former employees who have all made a case pushing for the closure of the mine unless the company renegotiates with the local community.
Senator Cherargey has already sent a petition to the Senate and copied Ministry of Mining seeking to have the Majority Leader give a statement, on among other things, whether the miner has a prescribed manner for dealing with the discovery, exploration, mining, processing and export of gold. “State the benefits that have been achieved for community development.
State whether the mining operations are carried out in accordance with the mining best practices,” the petition reads in part. The Senator also wants a statement on whether there are issues related to land exploitation in leasing of the land and on whether the company has been granted the mineral rights as stipulated in the Mining Act of 2016. He also accused the company of causing serious health hazards by using chemicals that have interfered with the reproductive system of some of the young men working in the mine.
Speaking to People Daily, Cherargey claimed that since the company started mining in 2009, they have never signed a Community Development Agreement as espoused in the mining Regulations 2017. “Karebe Mines has given the community a raw deal over the years. As leaders we want the community to get millions of shillings in compensation because we have not benefited in any way,” the Senator said. “
Furthermore, some of the landowners were exploited by the company while others who refused to lease their land have accused it of digging the underground gold search tunnels into their land without their consent,” he alleged. Mining Principal Secretary Ibrahim Mohamed acknowledged that they have received the petition from the Senator.
“The senator has written to us about the issues. We will respond to the letter and go to the ground and address them,” he told People Daily. According to Mohamed, although the ministry had engaged area’s former elected leaders, with the recent general elections bringing in new members, they would have to engage them too.
“The local community should come to us and raise the issues if they are about compensation or community development agreements. If they feel it is not done, we can negotiate with the company involved and ensure that they comply with the Mining Act,” he said. President Uhuru Kenyatta handed over the Mining Act, 2016 to Mining Cabinet Secretary Dan Kazungu for implementation last year.
The Act is intended to streamline the country’s mining sector and open the gates for its development as well as ensure environmental conservation and sustainable development in the mining sector. However, Karebe Mines believes that it is a target of a well-orchestrated hate campaign intended to dispossess them of the investments they have made even after strictly following the law.
The management also believes the government has left them at the mercy of local politicians and community members despite seeking its help to bring all stakeholders together to address any sticking issue. Problems Karebe are facing are unique because although the land they are mining from belongs to individuals, the community and politicians also want a stake.
“When we started in 2008 we entered into long-term agreement with the owner. The family, lawyer and other people were involved during the discussions,” David May founder and managing director told People Daily. He said the company has been having good relationship over the years until different people allegedly started misleading the family and inciting them even after being given more than what was in the agreement.
“The family started saying they haven’t been paid even when we paid in full and in advance. Every time we wanted to expand our operations, we were denied access to land and this is where the ministry needs to step in and assist investors,” he added.