House team wants Mining minister's powers clipped in proposed changes [Business Daily (Kenya)]
(Business Daily (Kenya) Via Acquire Media NewsEdge) Members of Parliament are proposing changes in the law to remove powers that allow the Mining secretary to grant and revoke licences at will.
In a raft of proposals aimed at clipping the immense powers of ministers, the MPs also want mining contracts worth more than Sh44 billion ($500 million) to be approved by Parliament. At the moment, contracts of such magnitude are approved by the cabinet secretaries in charge of mining and the Treasury.
"We are concerned, like the majority of Kenyans, over the high discretional powers given to minister to determine which persons or companies can be granted, denied or revoked mining licences," said parliamentary Committee on Environment and Natural Resources chairperson Amina Abdalla.
The MPs introduced the amendments last week as debate began on the Mining Bill 2014. Under the changes, a mining rights board will be established to take charge of issuance and revocation of mining licences. If approved, the Mining secretary will be left to handle policy matters.
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"The Bill as presently drafted vests more powers in an individual. If we don't curtail the minister's powers, we will simply be replacing the title commissioner of mines with cabinet secretary," said Ms Abdalla.
The Leader of Majority Aden Duale said that the changes would designate Mining secretary Najib Balala as the administrator of the new law. The minister, Mr Duale added, would also have powers declare certain minerals as such as uranium as strategic national resources.
The MPs have also retained a proposal to establish a mineral commodities exchange to facilitate trading in minerals and metal commodities in the region.
The House Environment and Natural Resources Committee is also proposing the creation of an appeals tribunal that is permanent as opposed to an ad hoc one that currently handles mining industry disputes. Also to be included in the bill is a new section dealing with artisanal miners to support and protect the interests of small-scale miners.
Ms Abdalla said that the bill as forwarded to Parliament fails to address the issue of revenue sharing arising from mineral exploration. The MPs are proposing to reinstate the mineral sharing formula in the bill and to include a requirement that every miner put an investment plan for community development as opposed to corporate social responsibility.
Any large mining company will be required to list on the Nairobi Securities Exchange within four years of production to allow government and counties to invest in the firms.
Leader of Minority Francis Nyenze said that the Bill has come at an opportune time and should be adopted in sharing the wealth from hydrocarbons – gas and oil – which are regulated under a different law.
READ: State makes U-turn on sharing of mines cash with counties
"Kenya has become a hotspot for mineral exploration. All the attention globally is focused on East Africa where Kenya and Uganda has discovered oil while Tanzania discovered gas in large quantities," he said.
He faulted the 10 per cent allocation to counties as benefits from the minerals, saying the rate should be increased to 50 per cent.
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