New Kenyan Government Holds Tiomin to Account

The new government in Kenya is treating the Kwale titanium project with healthy suspicion.

In early March, the Kenyan High Court restrained the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) from issuing an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) licence to Tiomin Resources Inc. of Canada for its titanium mining project, pursuant to section 63 of the Environmental Management and Co-ordination Act. The order remains in force until NEMA complies with section 59 of the Act which provides for public review of the Environmental Management Plan (EMP).

Mr Justice Andrew Hayanga issued the order based on a civil case filled by the Centre for Environmental Legal Research and Education (CREEL).

On April 10, 2003, Assistant Minister for Environment and Natural Resources Hon. Prof. Wangari Maathai – former chairperson of the Greenbelt Movement in Kenya – met with mine opponents, including the Coast Mining Rights Forum. This was the first meeting of its kind, indeed of any kind, between members of civil society and the Government over the issue of titanium mining in Kwale. According to Kenyan sources, “the mood during the meeting was upbeat and for the first time, we were able to explore the issues surrounding the titanium mining, highlighting what went wrong and what needs to be done.”

All the issues that the Coast Mining Rights Forum have been raising about the mine – groundwater exploitation, the development of a shipping facility at Shimoni, economic benefits, compensation and resettlement, and rehabilitation and radiation control – were addressed. The Coast Mining Rights Forum also learned that Tiomin intends to dredge the Wasini channel, which it had previously denied. This would be necessitated by the weight of the ore to be exported.

Tiomin has not received an Environmental Impact Assessment licence. What it has received is an approval letter of its EIA, issued by the former Director General of NEMA. This situation is a result of the failure of the former Moi government to promulgate the guidelines and regulations for EIA. The Commissioner of Mines and Geology cannot therefore issue a special mining lease until Tiomin presents an EIA License issued under the not-yet existent Guidelines. The Guidelines are supposed to be gazetted and possibly debated.

As well, the Environmental Management Plan (EMP) presented by Tiomin and approved by NEMA late last year was incomplete. The EMP is part of an EIA process; what was presented was merely an EMP Report. It did not include a comprehensive action plan specifying costs, time and responsible persons for the mitigation of identified impacts. A complete EMP must be submitted prior to approval of the mining lease. The EMP would then be subjected to public scrutiny.

The government early this year sent a fact finding team headed by Prof. Wangari to visit a titanium mine in South Africa to study the activity's effect on the environment. The team was to visit the Richard’s Bay mining area, and arrangements were made to meet NGOs in South Africa who have been challenging the titanium issue there. Environment Minister Kulundu said the government wanted the ore processed in Kenya and not exported raw as had been envisaged by Tiomin. The government has also indicated that the compensation offered to relocate farmers was completely inadequate.

Two public forums will be organised to develop consensus on the issues after the team reports.