Pacific Wildcat Resources Corp.’s Kenyan unit said thieves broke into its lawyer’s offices and took evidence that shows Mining Secretary Najib Balala allegedly demanded a bribe before canceling the company’s license.
Cortec Mining Kenya Ltd. accuses Balala of asking for an 80 million-shilling ($914,000) kickback for the company to keep its permit to mine niobium at Mrima Hills in the southeast of the country, according to a July 29 letter sent by Cortec Managing Director David Anderson to the Ethics and Anti-Corruption Commission of Kenya. Balala denies any wrongdoing.
“My track record is clear and this is far from the truth,” Balala said today by phone from Nairobi, the capital.
Computers and documents were taken last night in the robbery at the office of Havi and Co. Advocates in Nairobi, Cortec Country Director Jacob Juma said today by phone. Melissa Ng’ania, a lawyer at Havi and Co., declined to comment when contacted by phone. Police spokesman Charles Owino didn’t answer a call to his mobile phone.
“Unknown people broke into our lawyer’s office last night and took a computer and pieces of evidence,” Juma said.
Concerns that there were irregularities when exploration and mining permits were granted before and after national elections in March prompted Balala earlier this month to cancel all licenses awarded between Jan. 14 and May 15, the day Balala was sworn-in. He also suspended Mines Commissioner Moses Masibo.
Other companies affected by the recall include Dangote Kenya Ltd., Base Titanium Ltd. and Carbacid Investments Ltd. Balala appointed a panel to probe how the permits were awarded and said it may recommend reinstatement for some companies.
“Dangote, whose license was also canceled, has sent officials from Lagos to meet the committee probing issuance of the licenses,” Balala said. “Cortec should do the same, and if they are found with no fault, its license will be reinstated.”
Other changes announced by Balala include an increase in mineral royalty rates, drilling charges and leasing fees for miners as part of the government’s efforts to derive more benefits from the country’s natural resources. Mining currently accounts for less than 1 percent of Kenya’s gross domestic product.
Cortec said it gained approval to upgrade to a mining license from a prospecting permit on March 7. Kenya held presidential elections on March 4. Uhuru Kenyatta was announced as the winner on March 9 and sworn-in as president on April 9.
Pacific Wildcat, an explorer traded in Toronto, owns 100 percent of Cortec Mining U.K. Ltd. and Stirling Capital U.K., which jointly own 70 percent of Cortec Mining Kenya.
Cortec said on July 15 it planned to start producing niobium, used to make alloys for jet engines and to strengthen steel, as early as next year in Kenya.