Ongoing efforts to legislate in the mining sector are crucial and laudable in instilling proper governance in the sector. The law when it comes to effect will not only have better provisions like the current one but align the regime to contemporary realities of technology, transparency and accountability, public participation and other constitutional requirements among others.
The current law dates back to the colonial period and is therefore ‘archaic’ and not suited to present realities. Mr. Stephen Mwakesi, a program officer at the Kenya Chamber of Mines tweeted “took five hours, 45 minutes, 110 amendments to change Kenya’s 1940 Mining Act….”
The new law which is awaiting the President’s assent has reopened a supremacy war between the Senate and the National Assembly. The Bill was passed by the National Assembly and the Senate is aggrieved that it was not consulted since it touches on devolution. For instance, it proposes sharing of royalties and fees among national government, counties and the community.
At the same time, there is an ongoing process at the Senate led by Senator Agnes Zani to also pass a law for the Mining sector. To avoid duplication of efforts it would only be fair to let the Senate give input to the National Assembly Bill that was recently forwarded to the President for signing into law.
Kenya needs to avoid the resource curse problems that have faced mineral rich countries in Africa. For the most part poverty levels and human rights violations have increased and deplorable infrastructure persisted. The law should also help to guard against elite capture of Kenya’s mineral wealth.
Present realities of the mining sector also compel stakeholders especially Parliament to ensure the country’s citizens benefit directly and indirectly and use the revenue to improve livelihoods. Some minerals so far discovered and which have potential to transform livelihoods include oil, iron ore, titanium, coal, rare earths and gold among many others.
Managing the expectations of communities resident in the mineral rich areas is important to avoid conflicts. There should also be a clear demarcation of roles and responsibilities of all interested parties: the national and county governments, local communities and the mining companies.
The revenues will be better managed with a coherent and instructive law. That law alongside a policy that the Ministry of Mining has been working on will help inform issues like on licenses, fees and requirements for mining investments in the country. For potential investors and stakeholders at large, the rule of law and abiding to it by the authorities is imperative.
As such, the endless grandstanding and turf battles between the National Assembly and the Senate only serve to distract Kenyans from essential matters. Parliament represents the collective will of the people and has the responsibility to develop a good mining law to ensure the revenues are used for the betterment of society. Kenya is bigger than our individual or corporate interests. On a law, as weighty as this one is, all critical voices must be heard!