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Kenya's Mineral Discoveries Produce Mixed Feelings



From VOA Learning English, this is the Economics Report.

Recent discoveries of mineral wealth in Kenya could help add to East Africa's biggest economy. The government also is taking steps to improve the openness of the mining industry. But some citizens are concerned that at least one newly announced mining project will damage local communities. The government has warned companies about making announcements about new resources before they are confirmed.

Kenya's secretary of mining, Najib Balala, says the government will ask mining companies for details about their findings 21 days before making them public.The discoveries also could upset some communities where big mining projects are planned. One example is the recent discovery of rare minerals in the Mirima Hills, in the coastal area of Kwale. The mining company Cortec reported finding a deposit of more than 600 kilograms of niobium. The element is used in making steel and metal mixtures called superconducting alloys that allow electric currents to travel very easily. Cortec says the discovery could be worth $50 billion.

But a dispute has begun between the company, the government and the local community. Leaders of the Mijikenda ethnic group, which lives near Kenya's coast, say they practice their religion in the Mirima Hills. The Kenyan government has not announced how payments it receives from mining companies, called royalties, would be used. The Mining Secretary is expected to present legislation proposing that the central government take 70 percent of mining royalties. Local governments would receive 25 percent and local communities would receive five percent.

For VOA Learning English, I'm Carolyn Presutti.