The five companies are Athi River Mining, Devki Cement, and East African Portland, Criss cross and Bamburi.
During my fact finding mission on mineral resources in Kitui county and ,in particular Mutomo and Ikutha District, I found that, six primary schools and eight churches in the two limestone rich locations i.e. Mathima and Kanziku Locations are going to be affected when the actual excavation starts. The EAPCC had already identified 300 acres in the Mutomo, which has ‘huge’ limestone deposits which will be mined for use in its Athi River plant to ensure uninterrupted supply of the raw material. Gypsum and limestone are the two minerals the companies are targeting in Mutomo District.
Sources privy to this, have argued that, the deposits the firms have discovered are sufficient to sustain mining for more than 200years. The two minerals are also key inputs in the manufacture of cement, which constitutes up to 90 per cent of the volume of the finished product.
Initial reports had indicated that the Kitui County Council had been directed to contract two cement manufacturers to mine limestone in the Districts.
A Local Government permanent secretary had directed the clerk to council to uphold the principal of competition when leasing out the two blocks in Mutha division. The initial plan was for the council to lease the land to the cement firms with the issue of compensation to the landowners in Mathima and Kanziku locations being addressed adequately by the then Mutomo district commissioner Alfred Mwandale. After consulting ,one officer who didn’t want his name to appear in this report cited that the council is empowered under the Trust Land Act to license mining within its jurisdiction since limestone is classified as a common mineral under the same Act.
He said that the decision to allow lease of each block to one company was reached after a meeting chaired by the then Local Government minister Musikari Kombo. The meeting observed that the rights and interests of the community must be protected by the investors, the civic body and the Government.
The letter that was copied to commissioner of mines and geology and the Mutomo District Commissioner directed that the Local Government Act, Trust Land Act and other relevant statutes relating to land matters be observed during the transaction.
However I was able to understand that, a court battle pitting Athi River Mining and Bamburi Cement companies over limestone has derailed the mining process from taking off. Both want exclusive right to the land.
Bamburi claim that they have an Exclusive Prospecting License (EPL) obtained from the commissioner of mines and geology while ARM point out that a full council meeting by Kitui County Council sanctioned operations in Mathima location. ARM ventured into Mathima in July 2011 and went ahead to pay Shs 60,000 per acre to the landowners in the area beginning with a deposit of Shs 25,000.
Locals have been following developments on exploitation of limestone deposits in the area keenly with the hope that they could reap great benefits. The matter has also been popular with local politicians who are promising to push for heft compensation. When ARM is reported to have paid the land owners Sh60, 000 per acre, the owners started to demand an increase following a better offer given by the rivals of the company. This offered the stage for a protracted court battle between the two giant companies