Tiomin Resources

The company’s plans to mine titanium in the Kenyan Kwale district will displace indigenous Digo and Kamba people from their lands and cause widespread environmental degradation, say Kenyan human rights activists Dr. Willy Mutunga and Haron Ndubi.

Montreal, October 17, 2000 — A Toronto firm’s plans to mine titanium in the Kenyan Kwale district will displace indigenous Digo and Kamba people from their lands and cause widespread environmental degradation, say Kenyan human rights activists Dr. Willy Mutunga and Haron Ndubi.

Dr. Mutunga and Mr. Ndubi have been invited to travel to Canada by Rights and Democracy and Media Watch Canada to explain to the media and human rights groups why the mining project of Tiomin Resources Inc. poses such a threat.

They will meet with the Montreal media and NGO on Monday October 23 at 11 am at the offices of Rights & Democracy. They will then go to Ottawa to meet with government officials and in Toronto, to meet with the President of Tiomin and NGOs. They will also participate in a public meeting in Toronto on Friday evening.

Tiomin must be pressed to provide better compensation to the residents of the Kwale district it will displace, and it must come up with better environmental solutions before the project is acceptable to Kenyans, Dr. Mutunga and Mr. Ndubi have argued.

“A better deal for the Kwale people and Kenya must be a consensus of all the stakeholders,” said Dr. Mutunga recently, stressing that if the proper conditions are respected, then the project could be beneficial to Kenya. But, he warned, “if Tiomin cannot give the Kwale people and Kenya a better deal then Tiomin must go!”

Dr. Mutunga and Mr. Ndubi will be available to the press at Rights & Democracy on Monday October 23 at 11am, and then throughout the afternoon for interviews.


Background | Biographies

Mining and Economic Development in Kenya: At What Cost?

A proposed Canadian mining project in Kenya threatens the human rights and economic livelihood of approximately 5,000 indigenous and small farmers in the coastal region of the country.

Tiomin Ressources Inc, a Toronto-based company, is waiting for the government of Kenya’s go-ahead to begin mining for titanium, a highly prized mineral used in the aeronautical industry and as whitener for paint, plastic and paper. It hopes to obtain its permit this year but there is growing opposition especially in the Kwale District, where the way of life of the Digo and Kamba peoples is in threatened. Many worry that they will be forced to move to impoverished areas in urban centres.

The High Court of Kenya sitting in Nairobi is studying a request from the Coast Rights Mining Forum that all concerns regarding the environment and compensation package to landowners and squatters be addressed before a licence is issued. The $225 million project will be the biggest mining venture in Kenya since independence but it raises serious human rights and environmental concerns and questions relating to the methods used by the company to secure Kenyan backing.

The Canadian International Development Agency (CIDA) contributed $400,000 towards Tiomin’s environmental impact assessment (EIA) of the project. The study was done by a South African consulting company, with Tiomin as client drawing up the terms of reference. Although this is in line with Kenyan law and standard practice, it does not allow for a truly independent assessment.

The threatened area is a tropical paradise, with its 400 km of palm-fringed beaches, blue lagoons and magnificent coral beaches. Tiomin holds a concession of 56 km2 and plans to mine a 5 km2 area exposing mineral deposits up to 30 metres in depth. The Digo and Kamba farmers livelihood is at stake. The coconut, cashew nut and mango groves will be destroyed and there will be damage caused by timbering, construction of roads, a mill, processing equipment, a power-generating plant, power-lines and waste piles in the concession area held by Tiomin.

Rights & Democracy, Mining Watch Canada, the Inter-Church Coalition on Africa, along with several Kenyan human rights groups, support the Coast Rights Mining Forum demands that the project be halted until specific environmental and social conditions have been met.

Three key issues must be resolved:

  1. The negotiation of a just and acceptable resettlement for the affected people;
  2. Resolution of all issues of environmental degradation and destruction to bio-diversity;
  3. The project must conform to Kenyan law and policy as well as to international standards a complete review and redress of all compensation and agreements signed with villagers prior to the release of the Kenyatta University study.


Although Tiomin has told farmers that they will have their land back after 21 years, it is doubtful that it can be productive for at least another 30 years – the time that it would take the trees to grow, if at all.

Experts at Kenyatta University in Nairobi say the project poses a threat of sulphur dioxide emissions, and could have a serious adverse affect on quality of water, as well as water supply. In addition, the exposure of radioactive elements and their discharge into the river and shallow springs aquifer systems raises serious health and environmental concerns. Tiomin also intends to build a port facility at Shimoni that will have a negative impact on the marine environment, damaging coral and disrupting fish life.

Tiomin claims that the Kenyatta Universtity report is a “cursory back of the envelope” study which is “flawed,” and disputes the findings about possible radiocative elements and their discharge in the environment. Meanwhile the International Union for the Conservation of Nature (IUCN) has also raised a number of points on the company backed environmental assessment and pointed to a number of shortcomings.

The development of this project raises important human rights issues as well. The Kwale District agricultural families have the right to decide whether they want to maintain their traditional way of life, their institutions, their churches and their schools. Those rights are guaranteed in the Universal Declaration of Human Rights, which states:

“No one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his property.” (Art. 17-2) Also: “Everyone, as a member of society, has the right to social security and is entitled to realization, through national effort and international co-operation and in accordance with the organization and resources of each State, of the economic, social and cultural rights indispensable for his dignity and the free development of his personality.” (Art. 22)

Tiomin claims to have negotiated a mutually acceptable compensation. The amounts quoted vary, depending on the sources. The Canadian company claims that the average offers made to landowners was “over US $500 an acre” well above average prices currently being paid in the district. However, some farmers have provided deeds showing that the amount paid was as low as $120 per acre and about $30 an acre for leasing of the land. In a letter sent to Rights & Democracy, Tiomin said that in certain cases the company is paying “significantly more to lease land temporarily” than others are receiving for selling it outright.

Whatever the true amount, there is little doubt that farmers and squatters fear for their future. Many of the farmers have no clear title to their land and may not be eligible for compensation. Tiomin says it is committed to compensating squatters on a similar basis to registered landowners but that this offer can only be settled by the government of Kenya “through compulsory acquisition of a small part of the defunct Ramisi Sugar estate.”

Farmers who took part in negotiations with the company say they were not able to make informed decisions. There have been allegations that Tiomin delivered “gifts” such as motorcycles to Kenyan officials.

Given the pervasive corruption found in all levels of Kenyan government and, in particular, amongst the ruling elite, Canadians are justified in asking how Tiomin or any other company, can avoid problems, as large sums of cash in the form of investment and returns flow through a country in which every transaction is subject to corrupt interventions?

Indeed, accusations of bribery and corruption have already been published in Kenya’s major paper, The Nation, not a surprising development considering that Kenya ranks 82 out of 90 countries on the 2000 Corruption Perceptions Index, compiled by the global watchdog group Transparency International.

There is little doubt that Tiomin’s proposed project will significantly increase foreign investment in Kenya and create a new industry, but at what human, social or environmental cost?

As a Canadian company, Tiomin must be accountable for all of its actions and has the obligation to mine responsibly with respect to human and environmental impacts. On behalf of its partners in Kenya, we request that Tiomin’s titanium mining project be suspended pending more open and transparent consultations, which will allow the people most affected by the project to decide their future.

For information:

Rights & Democracy – Patricia Poirier (514) 283-6073
Inter-Church Coalition on Africa – Stuart Marwick (416) 927-1124 local 229
Mining Watch – Joan Kuyek (613) 569-3439


Mr. Haron Ndubi

Nine years ago, 25 year old Haron Ndubi graduated from the University of Nairobi with a tool that was to prove invaluable in his vocation to advance the rights of Kenya’s poor, dispossessed masses. Mr. Ndubi’s law degree was to be put to the service of the defence of marginalized Muslims, women sex workers, the victims of political violence, and most recently, the Digo and Kamba peoples, whose land and livelihood is now threatened by Tiomin Resources Inc.

Mr. Ndubi first raised a voice of dissent against the regime at university, when he authored a dissertation on individuals’ rights to freedom of religion, and religious groups’ rights to political expression. Today, he is a member of the Mombasa-based Muslims for Human Rights, a cause he took up during his period of private legal practice in the Kenyan coastal city. During this time, the lawyer founded a practice, which focused on public interest cases, defending the rights of the urban poor in the face of speculators’ attempts at illegal land grabs. As elected chair of the local bar association, Mr. Ndubi sensitized his colleagues to issues of human rights and social justice.

After a period of bloody political and ethnic violence in the Mombasa region in 1997, Mr. Ndubi’s efforts were instrumental in forcing the Moi regime to allow the Law Society of Kenya to participate in a government-appointed judicial investigatory committee. He fought hard to have unpopular witnesses testify as to the root causes of the violent clashes: one was Father John Anthony Kaiser, the priest murdered earlier this year for his work to promote social justice.

Today, Mr. Ndubi is Executive Director of Kituo Cha Sheria (Legal Advice Centre) an NGO providing free legal advice. As a founding member of community organization Ilishe, he also works actively to promote communities’ empowerment to defend their rights. He also works to defend women’s rights as an advisor to the Board of Solidarity with Women in Distress, an organization that rehabilitates women sex workers.

Dr. Willy Mutunga

Dr. Willy Mutunga is an Advocate of the High Court in Kenya. He studied law at the University of Dar Es Salaam and at York University (Osgoode Hall Law School) in Toronto, Canada.

A committed activist in the pro-democracy movement in Kenya since the 1970s, Dr. Mutunga has worked in a number of prominent human rights organizations throughout the country, and has also been an active member of the university staff trade unions. His work in the pro-democracy movement, notably with the pro-democracy Twelfth of December Movement, made him a target of Moi’s Kenyan African National Union (KANU) party, and he was imprisoned from 1982-83. He has since spoken out vociferously on behalf of political prisoners.

Dr. Mutunga was Chair of the Law Society of Kenya from 1993-95. He is also the author of a number of widely published articles, the rights of detainees, the role of NGOs and civil society in democratization, the constitutional rights of Kenya’s nomad pastoralists, and the rights of tenants.

Dr. Mutunga is currently Executive Director of the Kenya Human Rights Commission, a member the National Convention Executive Council, co-Chair of the Citizens Coalition for Constitutional Change (4Cs) and a member of the Board of Directors of Rights & Democracy.