Several leaders from the Western Kenya region among them Amani National Congress (ANC) chief Musalia Mudavadi, his Ford-Kenya counterpart Moses Wetang’ula and Sabati MP Alfred Agoi have sought details about the gold exploration and how Acacia Mining acquired mining rights.
They said this as pressure mounts on the government to explain how a UK company was awarded exclusive mining rights in the region where gold and granite reserves have been discovered.
Other local leaders who have questioned the deal include Eldoret and Keiyo leaders Nicholas Mbaka, Micah Kigen, Fred Shabati, Enock Limo and Meshack Muge.
On Thursday, MP Agoi, in a statement at the National Assembly, requested for a detailed explanation of the deal from Mining Cabinet Secretary John Munyes.
Mr Agoi, requested for among other things, disclosure of the ownership and the names of the companies that have been given rights for gold prospecting at the Lirhanda corridor.
“I seek to understand from the ministry, the areas covered in the Lirhanda corridor gold exploration in Western region and parts of Nyanza,” reads the MP’s statement.
The legislator has also questioned the criteria that was used in identifying and awarding the firm the rights to prospect for gold.
He also wants to know the mining methods recommended and whether any Impact Assessment Report on gold prospecting in the area was done.
The MP also wants to know the plans the ministry has for compensation of the locals affected by the exploration.
Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula previously wrote to the CS Munyes demanding for full details on the mineral mining rights in the region.
The discovery of the mineral deposits, gold reserves at the Lirhanda corridor, and granite in Bungoma and Vihiga, has sparked wide political interest in the region and a scramble for land has started in areas identified to have the minerals.
“We are happy to see that the valuable resources have been discovered in the region, but there are a few questions that Kenyans want to know because we are informed that a company called Acacia was given the mineral rights in Western Kenya. We demand disclosure of several issues about the UK company because we do not want our people exploited,” Mr Mudavadi and Mr Wetang’ula said in a joint statement.
“Kenyans want to understand how this company procured, who are the owners of this company, who are their local representatives and the tendering process. Was it an expression of interest that was advertised? What mining methods do they want to use? Do we have Environmental Impact Assessment reports by the company? We also would wish to know how the counties in which the resources have been discovered will benefit from this process,” they added.
The leaders have also claimed, that the details on the Acacia mining deal were scanty and that the UK firm may have sold the same rights granted, to a Tanzanian firm named Shanta Golds, which operates in Iringa.
“We want the Ministry of Mining to come out clear because there are reports that Acacia company has sold those mining rights to another company that is mining in Tanzania. What was the consideration, when was this transaction undertaken because these are natural resources and who are these people behind all this? These are very important and fundamental questions which must be answered,” Mr Mudavadi said.
Acacia, which has been prospecting in the region, announced recently that it had struck high-grade gold in Kakamega where the deposits are estimated to be worth more than Sh164 billion.
The gold reserves have been found in Western Kenya’s Lirhanda Corridor that touches Kakamega, Vihiga, parts of Kisumu and Siaya counties.
Granite deposits have also been found in Bungoma and Vihiga counties.
Gold mining firm Acacia came to limelight locally in 2017 when it announced a major gold discovery in Kakamega.
At the time, it described the find as that of high-grade gold and estimated that the mines at the Liranda Corridor in Kakamega had a resource of 1.31 million ounces of gold, whose grade, it said, was one of the highest in Africa.
It is expected to start commercial production of gold in Western Kenya in 2022.
Acacia CEO Brad Gordon has previously revealed that the company made a discovery of 1.3 million ounces/36 tonnes of gold in the Liranda corridor near Kakamega town.
According to Gordon, the discovery of 1.3 million ounces of gold was encouraging.
Mr Gordon said that the company will spend $10 million on exploration activities in the 30-kilometre square Liranda corridor, and a further $2 million in the surrounding area as the firm’s special licence 213 covers about 1,600 square kilometres.
CS Munyes did not pick calls for comment but sources at the ministry said he will visit the region soon.