Man behind Chinese firm in Sh3.4tr Mui coal mines
Posted Thursday, August 9 2012 at 21:00
When George Kariithi, a millionaire businessman, first got wind that the government had intentions of leasing out the multi-billion-shilling Mui Coal fields two years ago, he instantly sensed a lucrative business opportunity.
It struck him that he could use his close connections with two Chinese friends and mining executives to bag the lucrative contract and he quickly arranged for a flight to China to meet Li Yuxin and Yang Wusheng.
As an experienced hand in natural resources exploration, Mr Kariithi knew that his Chinese friends had at their disposal the technical expertise and financial muscle needed to win the lucrative tender.
Using his company, Great Lakes Corporation, which he co-owns with a New Zealand national, Ian See, Mr Kariithi formed a consortium with Mr Yuxin and Mr Yusheng, the Fenxi Mining Industry Group.
On August 24 last year, Mr Kariithi and his Chinese partners received communication from the Permanent Secretary in the Ministry of Energy, Patrick Nyoike, informing them that their consortium had won the concession to mine coal in the Mui basin’s blocks C and D.
The two blocks are thought to have more than 400 million tonnes of coal reserves valued at Sh3.4 trillion ($40 billion), according to the Ministry of Energy estimates.
Mr Kariithi, 58, a trained pharmacist and one of the lesser known Kenyan business magnates, had won one of the most hotly contested and lucrative Kenya government tenders ever, but controversy was soon to follow award of the contract.
When the Business Daily caught up with him, he was preparing to leave for China to meet his business partners.
He was concerned that negative publicity on the tendering process was “distracting people from the bigger picture,” and feared that the controversy would delay the start of the mining process and hold back economic benefits the local community and the country would derive from it.
“We won the tender in an open process, and I’m willing to answer, as I should, all the questions that are arising, we have nothing to hide,” said Mr Kariithi.
As a businessman with interests in such volatile countries as South Sudan, DR Congo, Senegal and Zimbabwe, Mr Kariithi is used to confronting challenges that are, in most cases, potential deal breakers.
On the Mui basin deal, he has had to contend with Mutitu Member of Parliament Kiema Kilonzo’s offensive on the award that has now dragged on for nearly a year.
Mr Kilonzo claims that during a fact-finding visit to China, a delegation consisting of Kitui community leaders established that Fenxi did not have the financial or technical capacity to deliver on the Mui basin coal project.