Gvt ban sparks job crisis in artisanal mining sector

Thousands of Kenyans who eke out a living as artisanal miners across the country are staring at job losses following a government move to ban artisanal mining due to escalating cases of death at mines.

Speaking in Migori County on Monday, Interior Cabinet Secretary Prof Kithure Kindiki said there is an urgent need to check on the proliferation of unregulated artisanal mining activities in the country, a trend that is increasingly endangering lives.

“To ensure regularised artisanal mining that meets public safety and environmental standards, the Government has banned all artisanal mining activities as well as unlicensed commercial mining. The Migori County Security and Intelligence Committee (CSIC) is directed to enforce this directive immediately,” said Prof. Kindiki on X.

Unsafe mining area

In the latest incidences of deaths at mines, two individuals were reported dead in Matanda mining field in Nyatike area last week while four others died two months ago in Sango. The Matanda mine accident came just weeks after an incident in another unsafe mining area in Lirhembe village, Kakamega County, left a miner dead after its collapse.

Not long ago, three miners perished in Manyatta village, Vihiga County, following a collapse in an underground mine. Officials have pointed out the unsafe conditions of these mining tunnels, exacerbated by the use of heavy machinery by artisanal miners, which not only jeopardizes their safety but also has adverse environmental implications.

Prof Kindiki’s directives in Migori County follow another case in Dabale, Moyale, Marsabit County, where authorities have apprehended five individuals at a gold mining site whose operations had been stopped.

The suspects, all of Ethiopian nationality and including two women, were arrested on Sunday evening by the police. Also seized in the area were four generators, a grinder, two drilling machines, a rope, a bucket, and various other excavation tools.

The Ethiopians are expected to face charges of contravening the Public Order Act, engaging in illegal mining activities, and unlawfully being in Kenya.

Additionally, in Merti, Isiolo County, police recently uncovered illegal gold mining activities and recovered an AK47 rifle with five bullets. Their arrests occurred shortly after Prof Kindiki ordered the closure of gold mining sites in Marsabit County and designated the areas as hazardous due to deadly clashes over mining site control.

Read also: Base Resources awarded for ethical mining

Dabel artisanal mining area

Dabel Artisanal Mining Sites in Marsabit County have been plagued by armed criminals involved in drug trafficking, with recent gang rivalries among illegal artisan miners leading to the deaths of seven individuals, including two foreigners.

Available data shows that the Dabel site is rich with gold, chromite, mica, beryllium, and a range of gemstones minerals.

Cases of rape, defilement, and gender-based violence have also been reported in the area. In response, Prof Kindiki disclosed that a special team from the DCI has been tasked with identifying and apprehending the offenders.

Effective from 0630 hours on Thursday, March 14, 2024, the Dabel Artisanal Mining Sites are officially declared dangerous and disturbed, with vacation orders issued for 30 days, the CS said earlier.

“Pursuant to Section 8(1) of the Public Order Act, Cap 56 of the Laws of Kenya, and Section 106(1) of the National Police Service Act, no person may be found present in the areas specified in the Gazette Notice at any time without the written authority of the County Police Commander, Marsabit County,” he said.

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