Taita Taveta — KENYA is seeking to learn lessons in the mining industry from Tanzania to reap maximum benefits from small scale mining and extraction of gems.
The Deputy Principal of Taita Taveta University College, Prof Christine Onyango said here over the weekend that they intend to learn from Tanzania on how to organise themselves, with regards to small scale and large scale mining in order not to repeat the same mistakes.
"We want to learn how to make business out of the mines and how to attract investors in the sector without affecting local communities," she said.
Prof Onyango is the opinion that without proper structures in place no one will benefit from the mining, noting that Tanzania has vast experience in field of small scale mining.
According to the Head of the Geology Department at the university, Mr James Ochieng, Kenya's Coast Region where Taita Taveta is located, has vast potential in industrial, gemstone and metallic minerals which are mainly extracted by small scale miners.
Taita Taveta University College is the first higher learning institution in Kenya and is, at the moment, the only one that offers degree courses in mining and mineral processing engineering.
Prof Onyango also observed that most of the gems mined in the area end up in the Tanzanian market where they are exported as from Tanzania. Most of the gems found in Taita Taveta are also found in Tanzania as the gemstones were discovered in a belt that runs from Mozambique all the way to Ethiopia and northwards.
Miners in the area have concurred that they sell their finds in Tanzania because dealers in the country are experienced and have better connections.
Mr Benson Mwangi Kigo, Director of Kigo Mining Company, is a miner and gems dealer and said that doing gems business in Kenya has proven difficult for many small scale miners because middlemen tend to seek more thus many opt to cross the border to Tanzania.
"Until when we have better structures and are better organized can we be able to do good business in here, otherwise many will continue to do cross border transactions with Tanzanian dealers," he said. He noted that the most challenging part of the trade is trust building, saying that some markets are more difficult than others due to lack of trust.
He particularly pointed the Asian market as the most difficult one in terms of trust whereas America and England are the best markets for gems dealers.
Another miner, Mr Gensen Musa has been in the trade for 40 years and says that the biggest problem in the small scale mining industry is the lack of trust and went on to commend Tanzanians for being trustworthy when working in mine sites.
"One other major problem is that when you have Kenyans working for you they just cannot resist from the urge to steal whereas Tanzanians have proved to be trustworthy. But it is difficult to have Tanzanians working in mine sites due to government regulations," he said.