Artisanal miners at core of Kenya’s economic transformation agenda

artisanal mining

Women participating in artisanal mining activities at a copper mine in Nyatike, Nyatike Sub-County, Migori County on October 22, 2023.

Photo credit: File | Nation Media Group

Ever since the Kenya Kwanza administration came to office following the August 2022 General Election, the government has been on an unwavering journey of economic transformation, driven by a vision that places the prosperity of its people at the forefront. Central to this transformation agenda is the mining sector, with a particular focus on empowering artisanal miners.

The establishment of the State Department for Mining, under the re-organisation of the government in 2023, signifies a strategic move towards harnessing the potential of this vital sector.

First off, Kenya's mining sector is predominantly characterised by artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM), complemented by a few large-scale operations.

The Kenya Kwanza government recognises the significance of ASM in driving economic growth and livelihood improvement. This is why these grassroots players in the mining industry have strategically been placed at the centre of a series of initiatives aimed at transforming the incomes and lives of stakeholders in the mining value chain.

At the core of these initiatives is the Kenya Kwanza Bottom-Up Economic Transformation Agenda (BETA), which seeks to uplift those at the bottom of the economic pyramid while ensuring environmental sustainability. This agenda aligns with the constitutional provision that declares minerals public land belonging to the people of Kenya, with management vested in the national government.

To facilitate the formalisation and regulation of artisanal mining activities, the Mining Act of 2016 introduced the Artisanal Mining Permit, enabling Kenyan citizens to engage in artisanal mining under regulated conditions.

Additionally, the ministry has undertaken efforts to delineate artisanal mining zones and establish Artisanal Mining Committees (AMCs) to oversee the licensing and formalisation process.

The government's commitment to supporting artisanal miners extends beyond formalisation to capacity building, gender inclusion and sustainable mining practices.

One of the strategies we are deploying to this end is conducting training programmes for cooperative officials, besides well-curated sensitisation campaigns to ensure artisanal miners are equipped with the knowledge and skills necessary for sustainable operations.

The government has also been directing investments towards technological infrastructure, such as the Online Mining Cadastre System. This digital platform is optimised to enhance transparency and accountability in mineral rights management.

It not only streamlines the application process, facilitates compliance monitoring, and provides stakeholders with real-time access to mining data but also enables the government to identify areas that need interventions and on what scale along the implementation process.

The ministry has also put in place strategic interventions aimed at value addition. This will cure the perennial problem of grassroots miners risking their lives to extract small portions of minerals, which are then taken over by brokers and ultimately processed in foreign lands, earning everyone apart from artisanal miners handsome profits.

By leveraging the benefits of aggregation, we shall be able to bolster mineral beneficiation and infrastructure development. In collaboration with strategic investors, we shall soon reach a point where there is adequate technological infrastructure to ensure artisanal mining is done safely and in line with global environmental sustainability protocols, which Kenya is a party and signatory to.

Besides, working with strategic investors is gradually but surely revamping mineral testing laboratories. The upshot is that we shall not only enhance the value chain but also attract further foreign investment and create more jobs for our people.

Moreover, the government's declaration of strategic minerals and establishment of the National Mining Corporation demonstrate a proactive approach to resource management and industrial development. These measures not only ensure the sustainable exploitation of mineral resources but also position Kenya as a regional hub for mineral processing and value addition.

Another key plank of our transformation agenda for the mining industry is to create linkages with researchers, our universities, and other strategic institutions to ensure that there is structured and institutionalised training of personnel with the right skills and knowledge to further deepen the gains we are making as a ministry.

By empowering grassroots entrepreneurs, the government is not only bolstering the people’s incomes through job creation and creating avenues for revenue generation where few or none existed, but the emerging expanded value chain will have the overall effect of ensuring improved livelihoods for all Kenyans.

These reforms have necessitated the amendment of sections of the 2016 Mining Act and formulation of other policies that we are glad to continue deepening. We owe it to the people and expressly promised to deliver. Together with all the players in the sector, we shall pull all stops to ensure the transformation agenda is overseen to its logical success.

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