The commencement of any mining operation entails resettlement of local communities living on the licensed mining zone to give room for mining operations to take place without any conflict, danger, or harm. Ever thought of being pushed away from your village, shrine, mosque, or church to give way to a foreign project? As in many mining projects in Africa, the narratives have been horrific to many as more often than not, resettlement procedures are mucky, rough, and forceful with almost non-existent compensation plans. However, Base Titanium Limited operating in the southern part of the Kenyan coast has proven otherwise right from its mine development to the mining stage. Having acquired its mining license from Tiomin in 2010 for two mining zone (Maumba and Nguluku), the company took a keen interest in early community engagements to set up resettlement committees to enable a fair and smooth process of negotiation and later, resettlement.
BTL Community relation manager, Mr. Pius Kassim during the first EVITO webinar was meticulous enough to elaborate the effort and arrangements set in place by the mining company to ensure that the interests of the villagers who once used to reside in and around the licensed mining zones are not overlooked. To ensure that community engagements were handled without any impediments, liaison committees consisting of the village committees were established to ensure that the process was fair and effective. Such committees were established at every sub-county level to act as an interface between the mining company (investor) and the villagers and some of these included the Msambweni and Matuga committee. He further noted that the major goal of such committees is to report any complaint regarding mining operations to the company and also, to investigate the genuity of such complaints so that mining operations are conducted without any conflicts or harm.
To further buttress the importance of diligent community engagements, Mr. Pius noted that the established liaison committees aided in developing the community development management plan (CDMP) which in turn aided the formation of community development schedule (CDS). This would help in sharing the 1% revenue generated from mining operations amongst these committees. As the key player in ensuring community affairs are well handled and has chaired over 700 community meetings, Mr. Pius Kassim insisted on the relevance of being keen on every problem raised by the villagers and giving them the necessary attention. He furthered noted that the process of community engagement has not been all rosy as challenges are inevitable in any setting. Sharing his experience, he mentioned that one of the biggest challenges faced is the failure of committee leaders to report messages to the community and vice versa which then creates rooms for saboteurs to incite villagers against mining operations. To overcome this problem, the company has been training the committees after their election and during mid-terms on how to effectively serve their role as mediators. He also mentioned that another common challenge faced by the company is the inability of the community to distinguish between exploration and exploitation processes which have been solved by exposing the villagers to the operations as well as involving them in exploration procedures.
As a way of promoting goodwill to the surrounding communities, Mr. Pius mentioned various programs that the company has been supporting to improve the living standards around Kwale. These include the construction of health facilities, dispensaries, learning institutions, roads, and wells. Furthermore, the company partnered with the local and national government during covid-19 to support medical supplies by donating several mechanical ventilators for the critically ill. To address sensitive topics surrounding the relocation of graves and worship facilities, Mr. Pius Kassim mentioned that the procedures are done following the government protocols in the presence of health officers and family members to ensure decent exhumation is done and the bodies moved to designated graveyards. Last but not least, it was clearly stated that all relocation procedures are done according to the law and a relocation assessment plan (RAP) is normally prepared by the government, communities, and investors for guidance during relocation.
Successful resettlement testimonies were later shared by Msambweni Villagers, Mr. Ngare, and Ms. Eunice, who were relocated from the licensed mining area by BTL before the commencement of operations. Mr. Ngare, chairman of community resettlement committee Nguluku zone shared his testimony of how the relocation procedure was smooth, fair, and advantageous to them. He narrated how easy the relocation process was as the mining company offered the necessary sensitization, financial management training, and financial support in ensuring that the villagers were well empowered for relocation and comfortability was not compromised. Mr. Ngare explained that compensation was done in phases as a way of encouraging the villagers to identify good resettling areas before finally buying the properties. To ensure that sound investment decisions were made, the company conducted a three-day financial management workshop at Jacaranda resort to ensure that the villagers would invest surplus compensation money in other money-generating businesses such as farming and livestock keeping. The good community engagements by BTL did not stop after resettlement as Ms. Eunice testified of the enormous effort made by the company in promoting education in the zone by sponsoring students to school, offering health care, and improving infrastructure.