Kenya’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is rooting for environmental protection for artisanal miners.
The newly appointed board led by the NEMA’s incoming Chairperson, Mr. Eric Wagithuku Mungai cited a lack of policy for protecting the environment as an impediment that could derail success in the small-scale mining sector.
“We’re awestruck by the natural riches endowed to this county. However, we cannot close our eyes to the issues of protecting nature. There’s no proactive framework to protect the environment and I think that’s where our work as a board will start,” said Mr. Mungai.
The chair emphasized that the tour was necessary as the incoming board would want to take head on the environmental challenges occasioned by mining activities and create a sustainable avenue for social prosperity and economic development in the county and country.
“We want to go to the office knowing the challenges on the ground and come up with practical solutions to the environmental challenges from mining activities. We aim to create a sector that is environmentally, socially, and economically sustainable,” added the chairperson.
Small-scale miners at Kamtonga and Mkuki mines in Mwatate Sub-County are confronted by environmental hazards such as sinkholes, soil erosion, biodiversity loss, and water and soil contamination that put their lives at risk according to Oscar Mwangola, the mining manager at Kamtonga mine.
“Every day is a walk of faith for the miners as they face a plethora of environmental hazards. We’re dealing with the risks of soil and water contamination and biodiversity loss,” said Mwangola.
Being small-scale miners, a majority of the players in the mining sector in Taita Taveta are financially constrained and cannot have robust projects to protect against environmental degradation. The lack of forthcoming support from stakeholders has doomed any efforts to have proactive measures to limit and reverse the damage done to the environment during mining activities.
“Most of the miners here do it on a small scale basis; thus, do not have the financial muscles to put up comprehensive environmental protection measures. Lack of support by the key players has worsened the situation here,” said Mwangola.
Taking note of the challenges, NEMA’s chairperson of the technical committee, Charles Mulila assured the miners of renewed efforts to help them conserve nature and a raft of other measures to not only make their activities safe but also conserve the environment for the future generation.
“We’re now aware of the specific challenges you face here. We will act on them to ensure that you’re not only safe but the environment is conserved for generations to come,” said Mulila.