Mining of Rare Earths and Niobium in Mrima Hill, Kwale, Kenya


In February 2012 Cortec Mining Kenya Ltd submitted an EIA to NEMA for Niobium and rare earths mining in Mrima Hill which was rejected. Nature Kenya and Kenya Forest Working Group had objected to the EIA on grounds that Mrima Hill was declared a Nature Reserve and National Monument because of its natural and cultural riches ant therefore exploitation of its mineral riches should be strictly limited and closely monitored to preserve them. Nature Kenya also recommended for the proponent to submit information on sites for ore processing, waste storage, and water extraction before the EIA report was approved.

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Basic Data
NameMining of Rare Earths and Niobium in Mrima Hill, Kwale, Kenya
ProvinceCoast Region
SiteKwale County
Accuracy of LocationHIGH local level
Source of Conflict
Type of Conflict (1st level)Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of Conflict (2nd level)Mineral ore exploration
Specific CommoditiesNiobium
Rare metals
Project Details and Actors
Project DetailsIn April 2013, Cortec Mining Kenya Ltd (CMKL) was granted a 21 year Special Mining Licence for the Niobium and rare earths mining project in Mrima Hill. In August, The government of Kenya however through a press release revoked all mining licenses issued since January 2013 for a 60 day review period, on grounds that the licenses had been irregularly awarded. Mrima Hill’s rare earth deposit is targeted at approximately 40 million tonnes with a concentration of approximately 5% total rare earth oxides. Mrima Hill has been ranked among the top five regions in the world with rare earth deposits, with a potential in-ground value of up to KSh 5.4 trillion.

CMKL claims that this is the largest mineral deposit in Kenya and this places Kenya as having the potential to be one of the largest rare earth producers in the world. The company also confirms a deposit of 680 million kilograms of Niobium, held in 105 million tonnes at 0.7 per cent Niobium Pentoxide. The global demand for Niobium, used to strengthen steels, is rising rapidly, with Mrima Hill now positioned in the world’s top six deposits.

Project Area (in hectares)142
Type of PopulationRural
Potential Affected Population400,000- 600,000
Company Names or State EnterprisesPacific Wildcat Resource Corp. from Canada
Cortec Mining Kenya Ltd from Kenya
Relevant government actorsMinistry of Planning and Devolution; Ministry of Mining; National Environment Management Authority
International and Financial InstitutionsWorld Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
Environmental justice organisations and other supportersNature Kenya, Kenya Forest Working Group, East Africa Wildlife Society, World Wide Fund for Nature (WWF)
The Conflict and the Mobilization
Intensity of Conflict (at highest level)LOW (some local organising)
When did the mobilization beginPREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups MobilizingInternational ejos
Local ejos
Forms of MobilizationObjections to the EIA
Environmental ImpactsPotential: Biodiversity loss (wildlife, agro-diversity), Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Socio-economic ImpactsPotential: Loss of traditional knowledge/practices/cultures, Loss of landscape/sense of place
Project StatusPlanned (decision to go ahead eg EIA undertaken, etc)
Pathways for conflict outcome / responseEIA approved, despite objection by ejos.
Development of Alternatives• The sacred Kaya, the top of the Mrima hill and non-mineralised areas need to be strictly protected.

• Constant monitoring should be done once the project is implemented to ensure that the company abides by its mitigation and restoration measures ought to be mandatory, with stakeholder involvement.

Do you consider this as a success?No
Why? Explain briefly.Though the Mrima Hill mining license has been suspended, this is not on environmental grounds; hence the Important Bird Area is still under threat. In addition, the government has expressed its support for the project considering the projects potential to earn high income for the government.

NEMA also already approved the projects EIA.

This makes it difficult for ejos to succeed in their efforts to save the site.
Sources and Materials

Environmental Management and Coordination Act ; Mining Act; Wildlife Conservation

and Management Act CAP 376 and Forest Act .


The Standard
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Pacific Wildcat
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Mining Weekly
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Business Daily Africa
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ContributorSerah Munguti
Last update08/04/2014