Work in progress at a mining site in Kuranze, Kinango Sub-county

Umazi (not her real name) personifies the level of poverty that characterizes Kinango Sub-county in Kwale County. The 38 year-old mother of six is not only a widow, but also the sole breadwinner of her family. Her tools of trade include a metal basin and little bowls which she uses to sort gemstones-a common mineral found beneath the red soil Kuranze, Kinango Sub-county.

As with many areas endowed with mineral resources in Kwale, the local residents of Puma Ward where the mining site is situated, have little to boast of in terms of social and economic development.

The locals working in the site decry the poor pay and dehumanizing environment they work in. “We report to work early in the morning and work long hours but I have nothing to show for it,” says Umazi, who works with her one year old son clad on her back.

Lack of human rights compliance and sound policies on benefit sharing are among the major challenges workers and residents living in the extractive company neighbourhoods face. The owners of the mining sites are hardly visible as they are said to be staying several kilometers away in Voi, Taita-Taveta County. The residents claim local leadership has not intervened to have the challenges they face addressed in a structured manner.

The story of Umazi is shared across nearly all the mining sites in Kwale. Compliance with human rights and environmental justice remains an Achilles heel among the practitioners in the extractive sector with many communities decrying non-involvement in the process of conducting environmental impact assessment nor accessing the EIA reports.

Communities also cite lack of proper benefit sharing mechanisms and unstructured corporate social responsibilities in the extractive sector. Most stakeholders interviewed by KYGC assert that the extractive sector companies lack management structures to engage with stakeholders nor adequate internal institutional framework to handle human rights violations.