by Maya Bornstein
Among the various areas of the world with an abundance of gold, Africa has topped the list for centuries. Every day, more and more deposits are found in the continent’s mineral-rich, sun-baked earth. In fact, 40% of all the gold ever mined in the world hails from South Africa – or from Witwatersrand Basin in Johannesburg, to be exact. Other heavy contributors over the world’s long years in the precious metal trade have included Indonesia, Nevada, Australia, Peru, California, and Japan.
Kenya Enters the Mix
Now, a new rising star may be well on its way to joining these gold industry titans. In the mines of Kenya’s Wundanyi constituency, workers of the Wanjala Mining Company recently unearthed traces of gold among the strands of iron ore they were originally there to excavate. While the news is certainly thrilling to residents of the encompassing Taita-Taveta district, which lies 200 kilometers north of Mombasa, experts say it is not necessarily a surprise. The region boasts a well-documented history of minerals buried deep in the soil, from gemstones, like garnet, to valuable metals, like cobalt and copper.
Wanjala and its affiliates began mining the area in search of its known iron ore deposits, which are used mainly for industrial purposes. Great enthusiasm greeted the ensuing discovery throughout the region. Africa has been notorious for its poverty, and the county of Taita-Taveta is no exception. In fact, the finding arrived in the wake of continent-wide efforts to boost Africa’s ailing economy via valuable minerals. To this end, the government plans to execute an aerial survey of Kenya’s mineral resources to evaluate the quantity and type of materials to be mined.
Minister of the Environment Chirau Ali Mwakwere announced the government’s plan during his tour of the country’s mining projects in mid-July. The survey will take about three years and cost an estimated 16 billion Kenyan shillings (about $190 million U.S. dollars). Much of the budget has already been invested in three aircrafts to conduct the survey, in addition to more advanced equipment for mining the deposits once they are found. Mwakwere also stated that both Uganda and Tanzania have already run aerial mineral investigations – in fact, Tanzania examined its mineral potential all the way back in the 1970’s, while Uganda’s survey was launched in 2006.
Although the ministry is hopeful that the gold found in Taita-Taveta will mean a better economic future for Kenya, officials have urged the citizenry not to expect too much. The miners’ discovery, they said, is preliminary. It will require extensive further analysis before anyone can be sure of its implications. Nevertheless, the people of the southern Coast Province await any sign of optimistic news that will serve to improve the region and enrich the lives of those who have suffered the hardships of poverty there.