A major scholarship programme run by the mining company Base Titanium is under threat because the firm might close when its operations at the Maumba mine in Kinondo ward, Kwale County, comes to an end in five years.
The scholarship has so far assisted 1050 students from Kwale at the cost of more than Sh160 million (US1.6 million).
Also at stake are the company's external training projects that include the 18 month transfer of knowledge and experience programme for university graduates, attachment and internship, apprentice, high school training and community skills development programmes.
However the mining company, whose 21 year contract ends in 2024, is exploring for more extractives in the areas adjacent to the current mine and is hopeful of discovering viable deposits.
However, its attempts to conduct exploration in the nearby Magaoni area was faced with what its officials referred to as politically instigated challenges.
“The timing was not right as we approached the local community just before the general election, but we are hopeful and if we discover viable mineral deposits, we will renew our license and continue mining for several more years,” noted Pius Kassim, the company’s community relations manager.
Base is confident of an agreement with the local community now that the general elections have been concluded.
It says an extension of its mining license would extend the lifeline of the scholarship and other community benefit programmes.
The Base secondary school scholarship programme has so far benefited more than 600 young people from poor backgrounds in Kwale and has given scholarships to 400 students in tertiary institutions.
Other education related activities that the company runs include visits to secondary school to encourage students to take science subjects, with mining at the back of their minds.
Kenya Land Alliance chief executive Lumumba Odenda wonders if the training of locals in mining was not building false hopes as mining is finite.
Collins Forbes, the company’s manager in charge of environment and community affairs responded: “Yes, mining is finite and our operations here could come to a close by 2022, but we are looking to extend to adjacent areas and further afield. Again even if one is not employed by Base, becoming a mining expert opens many opportunities. For example, we had to source skilled mining workers from Zambia and other African countries where they have had a lot of experience in mining. Trained and experienced Kenyans can in future work in other parts of the country or outside Kenya”.
The company also takes in form four leavers and gives them life skills including electrical welding and then arranges for them to sit government trade tests in readiness for employment or self-employment.
The company has an apprentice programme in collaboration with external institutions leading to a certificate after two years or diploma in three years. Base also targets the community in training that imparts skills to assist them generate incomes.
Kenya Land Alliance noted that although those who were relocated to pave way for the mining of titanium were compensated, there was need for them to benefit more from the mining through education opportunities and in other areas.
“Mining is lucrative and the company and the government are benefiting through profits and revenues respectively. How about the locals; how are they benefiting? How have they been affected environmentally and socially?” Odenda asked.
He said there was need for a meaningful platform to discuss how communities benefit and what would happen once the operations at Maumba came to a halt.
“Does the local leadership realise that within five years there could be no Base Titanium in Kwale if things don’t change? Are they thinking about what could be done with the extensive infrastructure the company has put in place or the high voltage power line that is in place?”
Collins noted that a discussion on the future had commenced and a process to prepare local communities and employees for the post-mining period has been put in place.
“Discussions about closure and what would happen to the structures have started and we are also in the process of rehabilitating mined areas. The scholarship programme has also been pegged to the life of the mine”.