A Canadian company's determination to mine titanium in Kenya has sparked controversy over environmental and other concerns. But the company still wants to go ahead. "Would they operate the same way in Canada?" asks one of the locals whose land is affected by the project. Cathy Majtenyi and Clement Njoroge report from Nguluku, Kenya.
Charles Mutula loves his farm. His eyes glow with pride as he points out the tangerine trees, cashew plants, and other crops on his lush 22.5-acre farm perched high in the rolling, green hills of Kwale District, about an hour's drive southwest from the coastal city of Mombasa.
Although Mutula is a teacher by profession, the farm is clearly his passion. He and his family have been farming fist 12 years, an activity that has allowed him to put his four children through school and pay his family's medical bills. "The farm gives me everything I need," he says, adding that his teacher's salary is just a "supplement" to the family's income.
Unfortunately for Mutula, his farm borders the site of a proposed titanium mining project, to be carried out by the Toronto-based Tiomin Resources Inc. Since 1997, the Canadian company has conducted exploration activities on 56 square kilometres in the area.
The land is 65 km south of Mombasa and includes the Nguluku and Maumba areas of Kwale District. It lies about 20 km away from the clustering of hotels and cottages for tourists. The world-famous Shimba Hills National Reserve is an -- hour drive to the south. Tiomin's proposed sire falls within the sacred "Kaya" forests of the Digo people.
Tiomin is now waiting for the Kenyan government to approve the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) conducted by Coastal and Environmental Services of South Africa, which Tiomin hired to do its EIA. The company -- which submitted its EIA to the government on 28 April -- appears close to making a deal with the government.
If it does, Tiomin plans to strip off the top layer of soil in an area approximately five square kilometres. It will then dig as deep as 30 metres, initially using about 3,500 cubic metres of water per hour-primarily from the Mkutumunju River and the Msambweni, aquifer in its operations. The company also plans to build a tailings dam nearby.
Early exploration reports indicate that the area contains 200 million tonnes of titanium and zirconium-bearing sands, containing ilmenite, rutile and zircon. The company estimates it will produce over 300,000 tonnes of ilmenite, 75,000...