Brief introduction

Marble is a rock composed of recrystallized carbonate minerals. In geology the term “marble” refers to metamorphosed limestone, but its use in stonemasonry more broadly encompasses unmetamorphosed limestone. Marble is commonly used for sculpture and as a building material.

Marble chip

Limestone on the other hand is a rock, composed mainly of skeletal fragments of marine organisms such as coral, forams and mollusks. Its major materials are the mineralscalcite and aragonite, which are different crystal forms of calcium carbonate.

The Kenya Marble Quarries Ltd is the earliest company in Kajiado District and colonial Kenya to have mined marble and manufactured limestone. KMQ was founded in 1923 as a British company which changed ownership to a Lakhani an Asian family which owns the company to date. KMQ was granted leases by the Maasai Native Council for a land parcel L.R Number 7684 measuring 176 acres. The company in return was obligated to provide unrestricted access to the Maasai cows of the pasture in the land under lease. They were also to provide Maasai cattle with water, medical services and maintain the access road from Kajiado to the mining area.

In 1975 when the lease was about to elapse, new negotiations were entered into with the Olkejuado County Council. A new negotiation requirement requiring the company to extend some shares to the community was proposed. Five big families were chosen to share among themselves the percentage that was donated by KMQ. Due to the delay in choosing directors from the companies coupled with the elections at the end of the year, Lakhani short changed the community and the Olkejuado County Council by accruing a free hold title for the land.

The different marble types being processed

This caused KMQ to have exclusive use of the land, and thereby was under no obligation whatsoever to continue supporting the host community in provision of basic social services. The company however was able to support the formation of KMQ primary school and the KMQ dispensary through their CSR.

After 1975, Athi River Mining Company was formed by the then KMQ manager Mr. Paunrana who successfully expanded to manufacture Cement through the Rhino Cement Company. Many other companies have also ventured into marble mining including Mineral Enterprises Ltd, Vekaria Ltd, Orata International, Paranap just to mention but a few. Most of these companies have little or no assistance for the host community.

Artisanal mining in Kajiado

In the last five years after agricultural research institute advised many Kenyan farmers to use lime to address acidity problems in their farms, the demand for lime shot up bringing with it a new crop of artisanal miners at KMQ. This group of miners works as cooperatives “chama’ which were founded with the assistance of the County Gorvenment of Kajiado to facilitate them acquire a mining permit. The cooperative group is called Oloibor Soit and has about 80 people that mine.

Chicken grate

Since they acquired a mining license, they have mined for about two years now. The mining license expires after a year. They meet once after every one Sunday to discuss any issues of concern.

This limestone they mine is processed differently to give different products. Part of the limestone goes to cement i.e. building materials, another to savanna, another to terrazzo, the lime goes to make chicken grits and cattle food.

They use their hands to mine. But slowly by slowly they have started incorporating use of small equipment like compressors and stone crushers. The small machines are used for drilling while explosives are used to crack stones.

Initially when working as individuals, the group used to handle customers individually. But since they came together as a group, they now have an office where their customers are served. Among their main clients are Indians, some that just buy their marble as customers and others as brokers. Orders of the marbles are transported by lorries, where a lorry carries up to 200bags, and sells a bag of marble for Kshs.60. while a bag of chicken grate goes for Kshs.120 to Kshs.130.