Lenku escalates war with Tata Chemicals Ltd over mining work

Tata Chemicals Magadi company in Lake Magadi. Picture by Joseph Jamenya..JPG
Tata Chemicals Magadi company in Lake Magadi. Picture by Joseph Jamenya..JPG

Kajiado Governor Joseph Ole Lenku has threatened to close Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd godowns over alleged health issues.

The stores in Kajiado town accommodate hundreds of tonnes of finished products and soda ash from the company’s plant in Magadi. It exports them through the Mombasa port.

Lenku on Saturday said residents had complained to him about uncontrolled emission of dust from the godowns. He wants the warehouses relocated.

“I’ve taken the decision to save the lives of Kajiado town residents from the agonies of the emissions that are threatening the safety of children,” he said in Dalalekutuk, Kajiado Central.

The county chief spoke during a thanksgiving ceremony for Education executive Samuel Kanar. Narok Governor Samuel Tunai attended.

Reached for comment yesterday, Tata Chemicals corporate communications office said,

“We are monitoring and evaluating very closely the words attributed to Governor Lenku and shall respond to them immediately he makes them formal.”

The statement signed by Diana Ngugi said the company has all legal documentations from the national environmental agency that qualifies Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd to operate its godowns in Kajiado town.

Lenku’s remarks came in the wake of wrangles pitting the county government against the multinational mining company based in Magadi.

The firm allegedly owes the county more than Sh17 billion in land rates and royalties. It has disputed the figures. The defaulted land rates date back to 2013. Last year, the company’s executive director Harish Nair termed the debt allegations malicious and ill-founded.

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“We are bound by Tata Code of Conduct and we ensure compliance to all laws and full transparency in all our business dealings,” he said.

Nair said Tata Chemicals and Kajiado county had worked together on projects, including lease rates, which had all been agreed.

The company petitioned the county government through the courts over their high land rates. The case is expected to start on February 22 at the High Court in Kajiado.

The county government also filed another case at the same court after Tata Chemicals allegedly destroyed a county construction site on February 2.

“While we are waiting for the outcome of a case we filed at the High Court in Kajiado where the company destroyed our property, we will not be cowed from demanding for our rights from the company. They have to pay our rates,” Lenku said on Saturday.

Sources at the county government claimed the arrears had been negotiated downwards in a February 2015 ‘secret deal’ aimed at cushioning the company from collapse following the increasing rate arrears.

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The alleged deal, which Tata Chemicals denied, would remit about Sh27 million annually.

Tata Chemicals Magadi Ltd inherited the company that leased more than 224,000 acres in Magadi, Kajiado West, in 1928.

Lenku said Tata Chemicals signed an agreement with the Iloodokilani community in 2004 to cede some of the acres it was not using to residents.

“This company has refused to abide by the rules under the Mining Act, 2016, which stipulates its conduct with the local community. We’ve asked the county assembly to investigate their conduct and why it does not follow laid-down regulations provided by the law,” he said.