Kenyan mining minister denies corruption allegations
MOMBASA, Kenya (Reuters) - Kenya's mining minister denied allegations of corruption on Friday that were leveled against him by the Kenyan subsidiary of Canadian-listed miner Pacific Wildcat Resources.
Mining Secretary Najib Balala this week unexpectedly raised royalties on minerals and revoked certain mining licenses, including Cortec Mining Kenya's permit. He said the move was to ensure Kenya got a bigger share of earnings from its nascent mining sector.
A senior Cortec official said earlier on Friday Balala had demanded 80 million shillings ($916,900) in order for Cortec to keep its licenses for the exploration of niobium near the country's Indian Ocean coast.
Balala called the official's comments unfounded.
"We knew that when we take such actions for the better of Kenya ... (the) forces of corruption would hit back," Balala told a news conference in the port city of Mombasa.
Balala said on Monday that there had been complaints over the issuance of permits during the first six months of the year, a transition period when some ministers from the old government quit their positions and parliament was dissolved.
On Friday, Jacob Juma, one of the firm's directors, said a senior official from the mines ministry had informed Cortec Balala was demanding 80 million shillings. It was not clear when the alleged demand was made.
"We called the minister on his mobile phone and put him on loud speaker and I overheard the minister demanding 80 million shillings," Jacob Juma, the director of Cortec Mining Kenya, told reporters. "He asked that I see him at his house."
Niobium is used to make alloys for jet engines and to strengthen steel.
($1 = 87.2500 Kenyan shillings)
(Reporting by Joseph Akwiri; Editing by Richard Lough; editing by David Evans)
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