The government of Kenya has announced plans to conduct out a census of all small scale miners in a bid to get rid of those operating illegally and curb smuggling of minerals that denies the country revenues.
Mineral Rights Board (MRB) chairman Stephen Kuria said the department will audit the miners and license them at the county level. The audit has already mapped out counties that have the highest number of small-scale miners like Kakamega, Vihiga, Kwale and Kitui to start the audit.
“The move that targets an estimated half a million workers in the small-scale mining industry is aimed at guarding against proliferation of illegal miners and brokers, blamed for the smuggling of minerals into neighbouring countries like Uganda and Tanzania. If we do not digitise everything is about understanding the data, market who are the buyers and the miners? How do we get there? Mr Kuria said.
Billions of dollars’ worth of gold is being smuggled out of Africa every year through the United Arab Emirates in the Middle East a gateway to markets in Europe, the United States and beyond Kenya has proven deposits of titanium, gold and coal. But the country’s mining sector is a relatively small contributor to national output.
A significant share of the minerals unearthed by informal miners are smuggled out and not captured in state records The mining sector contribution to the gross domestic product (GDP) is less than one percent, highlighting smuggling woes facing the country’s vast mineral wealth.
Data from the Kenya National Bureau (KNBS) shows that the country earned Sh29.09 billion from the sector in 2019, a fall from Sh30.85 billion the previous year. The move to audit the small-scale miners marks the latest bid to clamp on firms and individuals in the industry amid growing concerns on irregular exports of gold and gemstones.
The Ministry revoked licences of dozens of firms and individuals on May 26, citing non-compliance. The withdrawal of the permits comes at a time Parliament is probing 27 entities that exported minerals valued at Sh140 million in the year to June 2019.