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MINING RIGHTS

Fresh row in Nyatike over Chinese sand miners

In Summary

•.North Seka residents say Chinese firms have invaded the area and disrupted their source of income.

• Residents use buckets to harvest sand while Chinese firms use dredgers.

Women at one of the gold mining sites in Nyatike
FEUD: Women at one of the gold mining sites in Nyatike
Image: /FILE

A fresh row has erupted between Nyatike subcounty residents and Chinese nationals over mining rights.

On Saturday sand miners from North Seka village said Chinese companies have invaded the area and disrupted their source of revenue.

North Seka is the main estuary, where rivers Kuja and Migori drain into Lake Victoria. This makes the area rich in sand.

North Seka sand mining cooperative secretary Henri Kisinga, who spoke for the residents, accused the local administration and leaders of protecting the Chinese miners as they conduct their businesses "without permits".

“While residents use buckets to harvest sand, the Chinese firms use dredgers which are degrading the environment. We need the government to intervene,” Kisinga said.

Residents said Chinese sand harvesters invaded the area during the construction and tarmacking of Sori-Masara, Ahero- Kisii-Migori, Kehancha-Lolgorien and Migori-Muhuru Bay roads.

Two years ago, a Chinese grader was razed by gold miners at Macalder mines in Nyatike subcounty as the Chinese miners tried to invade the colonial mines.

Tension between Chinese and residents have been simmering, leading to demonstrations and assaults.

In January, a Migori court ordered a Chinese firm to stop gold and copper mining activities in Macalder.

This followed a petition filed by MP Tom Odege, who said the mining activities were illegal and discriminative.

The Migori Environment and Land Court gave the orders against John Munyes as the Cabinet Secretary for the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining, the Director of Mines, Lijin Mining Company and Attorney General office as the first, second, third and fourth respondents, respectively.

In the petition, the legislator wanted to know how Munyes and the Director of Mines, through Migori county officer Raymond Mutiso, allowed foreign nationals to undertake and operate illegal mining activities in the area to the exclusion of residents, who were deprived of their means of livelihood.

In replying to the petition, the first, second and fourth respondents supported the petition, insisting they did not give any permit or license to the Chinese miner to extract and prospect for gold in Nyatike.

Aoko Ondieki and Company Advocates, which represented Lijin, termed Odege as "busy body who seeks to create unwarranted attention and animosity between the communities".

In his order issued on January 15 this year, judge GMA Ongondo said Lijin was conducting gold mining activities illegally and unconstitutionally as they did not apply for and obtain mining rights in the form of either a permit or a license.

He said the Chinese miner also failed to challenge “while merely denies the petition” and did not produce any environment impact study as required by law.

The court ordered Lijin to remove all its machines and restore back to original status all environment destroyed by their activities.