Special police unit to curb illegal mining in Kenya

Sunday April 14 2024

Kenya's Ministry of Mining, Blue economy and Maritime Affairs Principal Secretary Elijah Mwangi on January 30, 2024. PHOTO | NMG


Kenya has deployed a special police unit to end widespread illegal exploration of minerals across the country, Mining Principal Secretary Elijah Mwangi has said.

The Mining Police Unit is pursuing miners, prospectors and dealers violating the industry law and regulations. The unit is under the command of the Inspectorate of Mines.

“We have received quite a number of police officers who are already working and very soon, you will hear of some arrests over illegal mining,” Mr Mwangi said in a telephone interview.

Read: Kenya, Uganda tighten controls of mining sector

“We have procured several vehicles which have been provided to our inspectorate team to facilitate the enforcement and compliance.”

Illegal exploration, exploitation, and dealing in minerals are penalised through a fine of up to Ksh10 million ($76,929) or a jail term of two years or both under the Mining Act 2016.


Smuggling of minerals is, on the other hand, classified as an economic crime which attracts a fine of up to Ksh1 million ($7,685) or 10 years in prison upon conviction.

The operation against illegal mining has come after Kenya decriminalised artisanal mining and gazetted artisanal committees to approve micro-scale operations.

The President William Ruto administration revoked 1,546 licenses last October for contravening the law and regulations guiding their mineral rights.

“By then, because we had a number of illegal operators, the excuse was that the government was not granting licenses to them. So we gave them a blank order to cease operations and close. This was to give them time to make application and resume their activity within the law,” Mr Mwangi said.

The Kenyan government last October unfroze a blanket December 2019 moratorium on the issuance of prospecting licenses to allow a fresh countrywide mapping of mineral resources.

The partial lifting of the ban, opened the door for investors to resume prospecting on minerals such as limestone, gypsum and diatomite.