Cortec’s Mrima Deal Was a Fraud – Balala

Kenya will defend itself against Cortec Mining Ltd at the international business arbitration court in a license dispute, mining Cabinet secretary Najib Balala has said.

Cortec is seeking $2.087 billion (Sh213 billion) compensation from the government for cancellation of its licence for the Mrima Hill project in Kwale where it was to mine niobium. The company has lodged a request for arbitration which has been granted by the US-based International Centre for Settlement of Investment Disputes, accusing the government of confiscating its assets.

Balala cancelled Cortec’s licence alongside 64 other firms and individuals to “weed out dormant and speculative mining firms”.

According to the CS, the licenses were revoked due to non performance, breach of approval conditions and non compliance to industry rules.

In an interview with the Star in his office on Monday, Balala accused Cortec of “undue process” in acquiring the licence.

According to Balala, Cortec had not conducted an environmental impact assessment.

It had also not been cleared by the National Environment Management Authority, County government, forestry department, Kaya elders representing the community and the National Museums of Kenya.

“Cortec was a fraud. They had none of the above requirements, skipped the whole process and yet they got a licence,” said Balala adding: “That is why we won the court case. Now they want to confuse and basically tarnish the name of Kenya by taking the case to the arbitration. We will go there no problem.”

Cortec maintains that it followed due process.

Balala also accused the company of rushing to seek international arbitration without exhausting the local judicial procedure.

“I am surprised they have rushed to arbitration because we have a court of appeal. It is okay, we will go there,” he said.

The CS said he could award the licence to a different investor since the Court of Appeal has not put an injunction on him.

“..But because I respect the court, I said I am not going to allocate this licence to anybody. It will remain in the hands of the National Mining Corporation as a government agency ” he said.

He said the government will have a public tendering system to select an investor, to partner with in a Public Private Partnership to exploit the resources at Mrima.