Kenya has been realized to be a country with increasing mineral wealth despite the past studies that showed the country did not have a really significant deposit of minerals compared to countries like South Africa. For some time, soda ash has been Kenya’s leading mineral export and is mined at Lake Magadi in Kajiado on the floor of the rift valley by the Magadi Soda Company. It occurs in crystals that are called trona. Soda ash can also be referred to as sodium bicarbonate.
Extraction of soda ash is done through the open cast method using powerful machines known as dredgers. Trona is usually mixed with rainwater from a shiny substance known as slurry, slurry from the lake is transported through large pipes to the factory. The trona is separated from water through evaporation and the product which is soda ash is packaged for sale locally and for export to other countries in the world.
Soda ash is used in the manufacture of soap, paper, glass, aluminium, dye stuff, curative dugs, papers, cosmetics, aluminium and fertilizers. It is also used in softening of water in oil refineries like the Kenya oil refinery at the coast. Soda ash is also used as a preservative for meat and fish where it is sprinkled on the meat and then it helps in removing water thus drying the meat and preventing it from getting spoilt.
The export of soda ash has helped the country to earn foreign exchange through the export and in turn, the country’s economy is improved. The sale of the product in Kenya gives the Kenyan government revenue from the taxes that are imposed on the product.
Employment of youth who provide skilled and unskilled labour in the soda ash mining company is crucial as it reduces the increased dependence of Kenyans on the government and helps reduce the problem of unemployment. People employed are able to earn a decent income and in turn improve on their living standards.
Companies that mine soda ash in this case being Magadi Soda Company provide the community around the factory with social amenities like schools, hospitals and health facilities. This social amenities help to easen and improve the life of the communities and reduce the dependence on the central government.
It is therefore evident that the soda ash mining industry in Kenya is a very important one in the countries industry. The government should therefore struggle to promote the industry by providing the with a good business environment to encourage growth.