NAIROBI, Kenya August 9 – The pressure continues to build for the Ministry of Mining following the decision by the Cabinet Secretary to cancel all mining licences issued between January and May 2013.
On Friday, Jacob Juma the Country Director, Cortec Mining said their licence was cancelled under unscrupulous circumstances.
Juma accused the Cabinet Secretary for Mining Najib Balala of demanding a bribe from Cortec officials for him to secure their licence.
“The Minister demanded Sh80 million from us and threatened that if we don’t pay he would revoke our licence on the Mrima Hills project,” said Juma.
Juma added that the decision to revoke their licence was illegal and they have plans to take legal action if it is not reversed.
“If the Cabinet Secretary does not rescind his decision on the licence we will be forced to sue the government and Balala as an individual,” added Juma.
Najib Balala responded to the claims saying that he had a track record that was free from any corruption and he will not be bogged down by the allegations.
“Forces of corruption will always hit back. It is my mandate to deliver and Kenyans must benefit from their resources. Law and order needed to be brought to the Ministry of Mining,” explained Balala through his twitter accounts.
Balala further accused Juma of issuing threats to his ministry’s public relations officer on Wednesday.
“She called me and told me how Juma threatened her and shouted at her telling her how powerful he is and how he will get his licence back,” Balala said.
He further explained that the value of the minerals in Kwale as issued by the company was exaggerated in a bid to stop the government from revoking its licence.
Balala had on Monday revoked licences saying they were issued under questionable circumstances to unqualified people and companies.
The licences were allegedly awarded after the dissolution of the 10th Parliament with Balala saying that there was no proper legal framework for the process.
“We are revoking all licences from miners and mining companies for us to understand the process used to issue them and confirm that the people they were awarded to are qualified to hold them,” said Balala
Cortec mining got approval of its Environmental Impact Assessment for the mining and processing of niobium and rare earth minerals in Kwale.
Company’s officials on Monday told Capital FM that they had not received any communication on the order by the Cabinet Secretary.
“The company has learnt this through the media and therefore is trying to reach the ministry for more information. Until now, Cortec is not aware of how this statement affects it,” the firm said in response.
The mining project was said to be the biggest in the world and would generate more than Sh26 billion in tax and royalties for the country.
Balala after the licence cancellation set up a task force to investigate the matter.
“I have appointed a task force that will be chaired by Mohammed Nyaoga to comprehensively review licenses issued from January 2003 to date and draft recommendations within 60 days,” Balala explained
Also revoked were all licenses of mining companies that are registered under the Export Processing Zone Authority (EPZA).
Balala also revealed that royalties on minerals and drilling charges were increased from August 1, 2013 something that Kenya Chamber of Mines officials termed as out of sync with international rates and was like killing the cow that produces the milk.
Kenya Chamber of mines is the umbrella body where all private owned mining companies are registered.
All concerned parties are now calling for dialogue between the cabinet secretary and the mining companies involved to solve the unrest.