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July 23, 2018

Base Titanium sinks boreholes, denies polluting rivers in Kwale

Mining at the Base Titanium mine in Kwale
Mining at the Base Titanium mine in Kwale

A report accusing Base Titanium mining company of disregard of rights and skewed benefits sharing with mine operations host communities in Kwale, has been dismissed by the company as "mostly incorrect". The report was based on a survey carried out by Haki Jamii, an NGO.

The survey was carried out in 39 households in Nguluku and Bwiti villages of Kwale county. 

In the report, Haki Jamii accused Base Titanium of failing to effectively mitigate the adverse environmental, social and economic consequences of mining, but the company has termed this “a broad sweeping accusation not backed up by facts”.  

Joe Schwarz, the company’s general manager for external affairs and development, said the report contains non-factual statements.

Schwarz said the suggestion that Base is polluting rivers in the area is not true, as analysis carried out by government institutions testify to the contrary.

"We draw water from our dam, where the local rivers drain. So how can we pollute the same water we are using?"

The company said the EIA license issued by Nema is revalidated annually through an independent environmental audit and routine monitoring programmes.

"Base’s commitment to sound environment management and good practices was recognised by winning the Pwani Mazingira Award in the production category for implementing the best environmental practice, conservation and environmental management."

He said the Haki Jamii report erroneously indicated that the company is depriving people and livestock of water.

“We release water downstream from our dam and have further constructed 13 boreholes for the communities surrounding the mine,” he said.

NO DISEASE OUTBREAK

Schwarz also dismissed Haki Jamii’s claim that communities around the mine are being afflicted by various pollution-related diseases, saying if that was the case, even those who work for Base would also be sickly.

“There is absolutely no evidence to that effect,” he said.

On the accusation that the company is degrading the environment, the manager said the company has spent a lot of money on the conservation of the environment.

“We have restored wetlands and planted forest corridors.”

On the accusation that the mining host communities are raising concerns in relation to the loss of land and displacement, the company said contrary to this, “many locals have continued looking to get on the resettlement bandwagon”, because they see it as financially advantageous.

An example is the squatters in Nguluku village, who now want Base to compensate and relocate them.

However, the land this community is occupying is leased by the government to the Kwale International Sugar Company (KISCOL).

These issues were raised when Schwarz met a delegation of four NGOs, including Ford Foundation, Kenya Land Alliance (KLA), the Institute for Law and Environmental Governance (ILEG) and Haki Jamii.

The latter three are funded by the Ford Foundation to create awareness and advocate for the rights of the mining communities.

During the meeting, a representative of the Ford Foundation queried the enhanced role played by the company on infrastructural development.

Margaret Lugadia expressed concern that the company is taking over the role of the county government in the provision of infrastructural development, which she said was not sustainable, given the short lifespan of the mining.

In response, Schwarz said, “Our infrastructural investments are aligned to the Kwale Integrated Development Programme, so there is no duplication, and the same goes for the scholarship programme. We just work together (with the county government) to ensure its resources are stretched further.”

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