Kenyans tour to raise awareness of Tiomin's strip-mining plans for titanium

Jamie Kneen

National Program Co-Lead

In mid-October two Kenyan human rights lawyers, Willy Matunga and Haron Ndubi, toured Montreal, Toronto and Ottawa to raise awareness about plans for a disastrous mine in southern Kenya. They visited NGOs and community groups, as well as representatives of the proponent, Tiomin Resources Inc., the Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA), the Department of Foreign Affairs and International Trade (DFAIT), and Natural Resources Canada (NRCan).

Tiomin Resources Inc., a Toronto-based mining company listed on the Toronto Stock Exchange, is expecting to strip-mine for titanium in the sands of Kenya's Kwale District starting early in the year 2001. Titanium is a light weight metal used in bicycle manufacture, aeronautics, etc. and as a whitener for paint, plastic, and paper.

CIDA INC paid $400,000 for the company's Environmental Impact Study (EIS). Scientists from Kenyatta University, in conjunction with the non-governmental organisation ActionAid Kenya, produced an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) that raised a number of concerns not mentioned in the environmental study done for Tiomin. The World Conservation Union (IUCN) has also severely criticised the EIS.

Much of the land in Tiomin's 64 km2 concession will be strip-mined, exposing mineral deposits up to 40 metres in depth. In addition, damage will be caused by timbering, constructing roads, processing, a power-generating plant, power lines, and waste piles.

Over 450 Digo and Kamba agricultural families will be displaced and plants, trees, soil, houses, schools, and markets will be destroyed. Although the company plans to return the land to its owners after 21 years, some of Kenya's best farmland will no longer be arable due to changes in soil structure. Kenyans feel that relocation and rental fees offered by Tiomin, $120 per acre and $30 per acre respectively, are completely inadequate compensation for these large extended families who will lose not only their homes, but their communities and livelihoods.

Women and children are at greatest risk of suffering. Said one boy from the community: "Maybe after moving we shall become street children."

The mineral deposits are associated with 309 ppm of uranium and 143 ppm of thorium, radioactive elements that have the potential to harm human health and the environment once exposed to the air. Kenyan scientists are concerned about sulphur dioxide emissions from the combustion of diesel fuels in the mining plants, and that water use will exert pressure on water sources and damage aquifers. They also fear that a deep sea port at Shimoni, as proposed by the company, will also damage pristine coral reefs.

See our press release of August 18th, "Canadian Resources Company Creating Conflict in Eastern Kenya".