Mining ministry expects nine state-of-the art mineral testing laboratories spread across a cluster of counties in the country to be ready within two months.

State Department of Mining Principal Secretary Elijah Mwangi has said the laboratories are expected to bolster the efficiency and quality of mineral mining and value addition in Kenya.

“A national geophysical survey successfully identified 970 mineral occurrences with confirmatory of quality of resources discovered in 24 counties,” he said.

He said the the Ministry of Mining, the Blue Economy and Maritime Affairs is also undertaking field-based work on the identified mineral deposit occurrences across counties to determine volumes and value of the mineral resources available before investors are invited to start commercial exploitation.

Speaking in Kakamega during the induction and inauguration of County Artisanal Mining Committees (AMCs) from seven counties, the PS said the government is keen to bring services closer to the people.

He said the laboratories would ensure scientific testing of minerals was done at the local level so that artisanal miners get value for their minerals and are not exploited by brokers and cartels.

“By June, the equipment will have been installed and will use customized containers before buildings are put up,” he added.

Mwangi said Kisumu, Kakamega and Migori were among the nine counties that have been identified to get the lab testing equipment. Others were Kilifi, Embu Kwale, Busia, Kwale and Marsabit.

The PS said the artisanal committees have the mandate of vetting and issuing license and permits to artisanal miners, prospecting, mining, processing and trading entities in the sector as well as sensitizing the local community on environmental protection.

The PS said a framework is being developed by the ministry to administer strategic minerals so that those carrying out extracts do not exploit Kenyans.

Vihiga County Deputy Governor Wilberforce Kitiezo hailed the national government for identifying investors to establish a granite plant in Vihiga County and a gold refinery in Kakamega County.

He hailed the setting up of County Artisanal Mining Committees, saying the mining sector has previously been operating without a clear mechanism to ensure gainful exploitation of minerals.

“This is a great step towards making devolution work since counties are the greatest beneficiaries,” he added.

Kericho County Executive Member for water, energy, environment, natural resources and forest Rosemary Rop said the county is encouraging artisanal miners to form cooperative societies so that they could benefit from government support as well as increase their bargaining power.

“In Kericho, we have large deposits of strategic minerals including coltan, oxide, gold and fluorspar and this move will help ensure artisanal miners work in areas that have been categorized to work in,” she added.

Her Kakamega counterpart Peninah Mukabana, the CEC for water, environment and natural resources said over five companies were prospecting for gold in Bushangala and Isulu areas in Ikolomani constituency where there was huge potential of gold deposits.

She hailed the formation of the artisanal miners saying it would be the voice of the ordinary artisanal miner.

Meanwhile, the PS thanked Kenyans for the support they have accorded him in performance of his duties after being ranked as the best performing PS in government.

By Fred Odanga