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Why mining coal in Mui Basin is a bad idea

 The mining of coal in Mui Basin, Kitui County is a bad idea. In an article penned for the Elephant, Chief Justice Emeritus Willy Mutunga argues that mining coal in Mwingi will attract a litany of disasters. 

North Antelope Rochelle mine in Wyoming in the US. Global use of coal as an energy source has diminished over the years given the huge devastation it causes on the environment and respiratory diseases it leaves with the coal miners and residents surrounding the deposits. Photo/FILE

The disasters include environmental and health complications. The piece is co-authored with Omar Elmawi. It is called Kitui Coal Mining Project is a Disaster in the Making.

Mui Basin has large coal deposits estimated to be covering 500 square kilometre area. It is located roughly 270 kilometres east of Nairobi City.

After ten years of prospecting for coal deposits in Mui Basin, the news of finding deposits was made public in 2010.

It is expected that Mui Basin coal will produce 960MW of power. However, it will come at a cost of displacing 100,000 people who keep animals and cultivate land.

A Chinese company was awarded concessions by the government. Fenxi Mining company goat the concession in 2011 that will work in blocks C and D. IN 2015, another consortium comprising of HCIG Energy Investment Company and Liketh Investment Kenya Limited won a tender to build a coal plant in Mui Basin.

The authors add that relying on coal as a source of energy will make efforts made in fighting climate change worse.

According to the Mining Act of 2016, coal mining royalties will be shared in such a way that the lion’s share (70%) goes to the national government.  Kitui County Government will get 20 % of the royalties while the Mui Coal Basin community will get the remaining 10 %. The concession agreements are still a guarded secret which the locals are not aware of.

Some of the reasons the authors cite are community opposition, environmental impact, economic viability, health concerns, pollution, acid rains, accidents and failure by the government to disclose who will benefit from this venture. In the end, they say that let the coal remain below the ground surface, where it has been for centuries.

Coal deposits

Industrialized countries have large coal deposits which they exploit to boost their economies. They are United States, China, India and Russia. Experts estimate that the US alone has coal resources that can run its industries for the next 400 years.

Unlike wind and solar which are only available for use during daytime, coal can be used 24/7 to produce energy.

Other disadvantages of coal is that it is a nonrenewal energy resource. No matter the number of deposits, it will one day be depleted. Scientists say that it emits great quantities of carbon dioxide which cases global warming.

Some of disease that coal miners face are asthma and other air passage inflammation conditions. They will also deal with lung cancer after breathing in the coal dust.

Since Mui Basin coal is close to the surface, open-cast method of mining is the most likely to be used. This will destroy flora and fauna in the area, eliminating fields and forests with fast devastation.


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