More than 2000 women and youth in Bale village, Ganze Sub-County have ventured into manganese mining after abandoning small scale farming.
This follows a series of failed farming seasons.
James Mwaringa, one of the artisanal miners, said the venture is more profitable compared to farming due to erratic rainfall.
In Kilifi County, the mining activities are mainly concentrated around Mugumoni, Sitaki, Sosoni, and Vilwakwe in Sokoke ward. It is also common in , Kadzandani in Ganze ward. In the neighbouring Jaribuni Ward most miners are at Mayowe and Vyambani and Mangororo.
“A large number of women and youth are engaging in this activity because they earn more compared to those doing farming. Manganese mining has become a very significant source of employment to the locals,” said Mwaringa.
Mwaringa said Bamba mining company Limited introduced manganese mining in the area started in 2018.
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Every morning, residents arm themselves with axes, hoes, and sieves to extract the minerals.
According to Mwaringa, a tonne of Manganese a market value of Ksh 7000.
In a good week can make up to 120 tonnes.
George Karisa, another miner said manganese mining has become a major economic activity.
He however said the venture has its fair share of challenges.
“We spend the whole day in the quarries in order to eke a living. This is a business of hope. You keep on working hoping to find more manganese at some point. It’s not an easy trade, some people tried it but later ran away,” said Karisa.
Pendo Karisa, a student in one of the schools in Sokoke said she helps her parents in the quarries after she returns from school.
She said the mining activity has opened hopes in her home.
“Through this venture my parents have managed to cater for our education and other basic needs without challenges,” she said.
Manganese is mined mostly for the export market in countries like China, Dubai, Saudi Arabia and South Sudan.
Kilifi County also has other minerals like coal iron ore, gypsum, sodium chloride and gas with a vast mineral deposit whose exploration could boost the region’s economy.
Kilifi County Assembly Speaker Teddy Mwambire urged the residents to form registered groups. Once organised, he said, the County government and other partners would help them acquire equipment.
“The government will only come in to make sure that a community development agreement has been inked and this is through forming a group. The committee will comprise of the community, the investors and the government officials. This is the platform where corporate social responsibility can be agreed on,” Mwambire said.
He also said environmental and Social responsibility should be addressed so that the local people do not suffer.
“Mining should not harm the environment and the social Welfare” he
Ganze MP Kenneth Kazungu said mining would complement agribusiness-pushing Kilifi to be among the top richest Counties.
“With this, we shall have more opportunities especially with the opening up of improved roads and new business. This will attract more investors in our area,” he said.
Natural Resource Alliance of Kenya (KeNRA) communication and campaign officer Regina Kimanzi, said the organisation will continue working closely with like-minded partners in ensuring public awareness amongst communities on sustainable management of natural resource exploration.
“Our organisation aims at improving the ways natural resources can be better managed as well as improving the agency of communities to sustainably utilize the natural resources around them and also support applied research and monitoring of the exploitation of natural resources and it’s impact on community welfare and the integrity of the environment,” said Regina.