Kenya's Mining Ministry has received the green light to issue licences - which had been frozen for one year since May 2016 - following the inauguration of the Mineral Rights Board.
"The inauguration of the board is the epitome of our reform agenda for the mining sector. This is something the ministry has been looking forward to even as industry stakeholders have been waiting for this day to come to pass so that the pending expired licences and new applications can be considered in earnest by the board," Cabinet Secretary for Mining Dan Kazungu said in Nairobi recently.
The creation of the board renders the Commission on Mines and Geology redundant. Previously decisions on licensing were made by the office or its commissioner. The CS said that such unilateral actions would no longer be possible under the new law.
The board also comes into force to address numerous disputes in the sector and is expected to cut down cumbersome bureaucratic processes that investors have been facing while applying for licences.
According to Section 31 of the Mining Act 2016, the minerals board will be tasked with advising and giving recommendations to the CS on granting, rejection, retention, renewal, suspension, revocation, variation, assignment, trading, tendering or transfer of mineral rights.
Mr Kazungu said the board will have the power to declare certain minerals as strategic and order the cessation, suspension or curtailment of production in respect to mining licences.
"The nine board members will also determine fees, charges and royalties payable for a mineral right as well as advise on areas suitable for small scale and artisanal mining among other duties," he said.
The newly-appointed chairperson, Abel K. Chumba, and members of the board shall hold office for a period of three years and may be eligible for reappointment for a further term, as provided for under section (2) (a) and (h) of the Mining Act 2016.
Base Titanium, one of the biggest multinational companies with mining rights welcomed the inauguration of the board, terming it a key reform of the mining sector.
"We look forward to seeing prospecting and mining licences being approved and having the sector make a greater contribution to Kenya's economic transformation in line with Cabinet Secretary Kazungu's goal of contributing 10 per cent to GDP by 2030," said Joe Schwarz, the company's general manager in charge of external affairs and development.