Kitui county governor Charity Ngilu is calling for enforcement of extraction laws to stop landowners from selling their land to miners.
The Mining Act 2016 provides that owners should be paid royalties for the land during the mining of minerals after which the ownership would revert to them.
She said the county would help residents negotiate long-term leases with mining companies in the hope that this would guarantee land owners better returns.
“No mining firm will be allowed to buy the mineral-rich land directly from residents.
"It will have to lease it for the entire mining period so as to protect our people from exploitation and guarantee them maximum benefits,” she said during a tour of Mutonguni in the county.
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This would help alleviate the squatter problem while securing land for future generations once the minerals are exhausted.
She said mining companies should involve the county government in resettlement of those displaced by mines.
“My government will take a lead role in facilitating dialogue among all players to ensure that all parties get the best deals while safeguarding the environment” she said.
The county and the national governments are working to expedite surveying of adjudicated land and issuance of title deeds.
During a mining forum she hosted two weeks ago, stakeholders cited the resettlement of people in mining belts as one of the biggest impediments to unlocking the county’s vast mineral potential.
Mining firms licensed to exploit minerals in Kitui County ranging from coal, steel and limestone are yet to start operations because of various disputes despite some of them having obtained licences more than 10 years ago.
Among them is Fenxi Mining Industry Limited, which was given a concession in 2013 to mine coal in the Mui Basin because land owners are yet to be resettled.
Alternative energy source
Despite questions over its impact on the environment, Kenya has identified coal as alternative source of cheap energy to drive Vision 2030 -- the economic blueprint which aims to make Kenya an industrialised country in 12 years.
Cement firms Athi River mining and Bamburi announced plans to establish grinders in Kitui South in 2005.
They are battling each other in the Court of appeal over control of the limestone deposits, putting the projects on hold.
Recently, Dangote Cement abandoned plans to establish a Sh35 billion cement plant in Mutomo.
The conglomerate owned by Africa’s richest man Aliko Dangote said it had pushed back its entry into Kenya to 2021.