THE PROGRESS OF MINING AND MINERAL PROCESSING ENGINEERING IN KENYA
Mining and mineral processing engineering, commonly abbreviated as MMPE, is a new course in the academia, the engineering field and even in the job market especially in Kenya now that the mining industry is fundamental in realizing the Vision 2030. Taita Taveta University College (TTUC) is the only institution of higher learning in the country that boasts of the privilege of training mining and mineral processing engineers, after the programme was transferred from the mother university (JKUAT), though there are plans of re-establishing the same programme in the later. Let us have a brief history of the degree program called MMPE.
Mining and mineral processing was first launched in JKUAT in the year 2006.This was after Professor S. M. Maranga, a lecturer in the Department of Mechanical Engineering at JKUAT saw the country was well endowed with mineral resources, though lacked experts in the mining industry . These minerals include gold in the western parts of Kenya, coal found in Kitui in the expansive Mui Coal basin ,Iron ore in the Taita regions, Soda ash in Lake Magadi, Fluorspar in the Kerio Valley, titanium and rare earth elements in Kwale, Silica sand along the coast and many others. The most recent and most important one though not classified as mineral is the oil famously known as the â€˜black goldâ€™ that was discovered in Turkana. Further exploration of oil has also been extended to other regions like the western part of the country in places like Muhoroni and Nyando.Other minerals found on small scale in the country consist of lead, copper, graphite, kaolin, various clay and py-rite just to mention a few .
Figures indicated that by that time the coun-try , had only about 20 indigenous mining engineers in the public sector compared to the over 300 geologists in both public and the private sector. Clearly the deficit was huge; the shortage of these professional Mining engineers and other technical manpower was heavily constraining development of this key economic sector. JKUAT , through Professor S. M. Maranga saw the need to start a pro-gramme that would produce the personnel to meet demand for engineers in the mining and mineral processing field.
The main aim of the programme was ; to pro-vide the manpower for the development of the mining industry for both the public and the private sector; to provide manpower for the mineral extraction and processing industry; and to provide trained manpower for the manufacturing industry in general ;to provide relevant manpower for the sectors involved in research in mining and subsequent processing.
However as part of its mission to spin off development in other are-as of the country, JKUAT in Au-gust, 2005 had dispatched a task force to investigate an alternative site for long term planning for an institute in mining and mineral processing engineering. The document on â€˜â€™ Strategic Mobilization Initiative for Mining and Mineral Processing â€˜â€™, recommended the location of the department within the vicinity of mining activities. To integrate the program with the activities of the local communities in mining trade; diploma and certificate courses were to be developed apart from the degree programme.
Other considerations were to develop project proposals for funding through â€˜Poverty Eradication Commissionâ€™. With all this in context, Taita Taveta happened to be the most suitable location for the placement of the department since the region is well endowed with minerals such as iron ore being mined at the Wanjala Mines, wide variety of gemstones such as green garnets , tsavorites, yellow garnets and tourmalines ,just to mention a few.
First the programme, MMPE, was established as a full department under the then JKUAT Taita Taveta campus in the year 2008. After four years the institution now Taita Taveta University College, became independent from the mother university (JKUAT). However TTUC signed an MoU with JKUAT concerning the engineering students and the MMPE department as a whole. The Mo U facilitates various things for example practical for engineering students and sharing or use of equipment and personnel for the training of the students. Despite maintaining ties with JKUAT, TTUC has also gone further and made linkages with overseas institutions that have experience in training for the personnel in mining and processing of minerals. A good example are ties that that are being established between TTUC and the Curtin University of Australia to start offering post graduate studies like MSc. in Mining Engineering. The university has also made contacts and organized for public lectures from foreign institutions such as University of Mines and Technology (UMAT) in Ghana, and many others .
Unfortunately the contribution of the mining industry to the GDP and national employment is about 1%(or relatively marginal) although the figure is expected to grow over the next few years.
The government, through the creation of full ministry of mining, has now embarked on an aggressive programme to promote mining investment and mineral resource development in the country. For the mining industry to flourish there is need for the country to have sufficient number of engineers and geologists among other cadre of staff. The roles of engineering and geology are complementary. A geologist establishes the existence of a mineral deposit and the engineer ensures the exploitation of the deposit.
An elaborate mining bill has also been approved in parliament to facilitate a policy and legal framework that would transform the mineral sector into an engine of economic growth.
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