Sophie Njoka @PeopleDailyKe
The government is ready to kick off exploration exercise to establish amount of niobium and rare earth metals deposits at Mrima Hills in Kwale county.
Mining Cabinet Secretary Dan Kazungu said his ministry is ready to partner with local and foreign investors to help in carrying out exploration and establish the actual value of the minerals.
Kazungu said two pending court suits do not prohibit the government from mapping out mineral deposits.
Two court cases were filed at the Court of Appeal and the International Centre For Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), seeking to have mining licences reinstated after former Mining CS and current Tourism CS Najib Balala revoked them in 2013.
High Court John Mutungi upheld Balala’s decision to revoke mining licences on grounds that the firms had indeed been given the licenCe without following procedure.
Cortec Mining Kenya jointly with its parent company in the UK, Cortec Ltd and Stirling Capital have filed an application at the International Centre For Settlement of Investment Disputes (ICSID), which is headquartered in Washington. The firm wants the tribunal to compel Kenya, under international investment laws, to compensate an undisclosed amount of money for cancelling its licence.
Kazungu said Mrima Hill was declared a National Reserve and National Monument because of its natural and cultural riches and therefore exploitation of its mineral riches should be strictly limited and closely monitored by the government to preserve its value.
“We cannot allow a private firm exploit resources that belong to Kenyans, we are only ready to seal a deal with the government and not a private entity. It will be handled on behalf of the people of Kenya and especially the locals from Kwale county,” he said.
He said the exact value and amount of minerals at Mrima hills is not known and the government was setting up a team of geologists who will undertake exploration.
Mrima Hill, according to Cortec Mining, is among the top five regions in the world with rare earth deposits, with a potential in-ground value of up to Sh5.4 trillion.
Rare earths are vital in manufacturing high-tech electronics products, such as specialised miniature nuclear batteries, high power magnets, LED lighting, super conductors and magnets.