Civil Society Organizations working on land issues in the oil rich region have launched a sharing platform dubbed the Albertine Region Land Platform (ARLP) to devise mechanisms to curb the rampant land disputes in the region. Read More
The evicted Rwamutonga residents have returned to land from which they were evicted two years ago, Oil in Uganda has established. Read More
Ministry of Energy argues that the farm-down creates monopoly in the Albertine Graben
Officials in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) and Uganda National Oil Company (UNOC) are in contention on whether Tullow Oil Plc’s farm-down to Total E&P Uganda should be approved, Oil in Uganda can reveal. Read More
President Yoweri Museveni on Monday commissioned African Gold Refinery Limited; the first State of the Art refinery in Uganda and East Africa region.
The facility, located in Entebbe, Wakiso District is 45 kilometres from Kampala and estimated to be worth $20m (about 72 billion Shillings) has been operational since 2014.
Speaking at the launch of the refinery, President Museveni urged government officials to get rid of wrong policies such as taxes on prospective investors if the mineral sector industry is to get a shot in the arm.
“I highly commend the management of AGR limited for bringing the company to Uganda. Africa produces a lot of gold but has so far attracted less of the same industries. I am calling on Africans to wake up and utilize the untapped potential,” President Museveni said.
The refinery will have a capacity to refine raw gold to 99.9% pure gold and the raw material is expected to come from different countries across the region.
According to Global Witness, an International transparency watchdog, some of the raw gold exports are likely to be from Congo and South Sudan, raising concerns over conflict minerals.
“Uganda’s gold sector is shrouded in mystery. You have to ask who is really benefiting. The gold trade was worth $200 million to the Ugandan economy last year but there are no official figures on where the gold came from or where it is going,” said George Boden, a campaigner at Global Witness.
“This raises serious questions about whether gold that may have funded conflict and human rights abuses in (eastern Congo) and South Sudan could be entering the international supply chain and whether the right taxes are being paid.”
According to Tony Goetz, a Belgian gold trader and AGRL’s main investor, the gold refinery will serve a critical role in the mining industry across the region and will employ about 75 Ugandans and with a capacity of 300kg of pure refined gold in a week and ability to increase it to 500kg.
“The refinery contains a geo chemical laboratory with high sophisticated equipment like an atmoic absorption unit. This is very vital since it traces most of the elements in the soil samples,” he said.
However, the chairman of the gold miners in Mubende District, Mr. Mark Jombwe, said the news of a gold refinery does not exactly excite them unless their operations are legalized.
“As artisanal miners, all we care about is licenses to operate legally and because of uncertainties, we cannot invest much in our operations as we are not sure of what lies ahead,” he told Oil in Uganda.
Though gold mining in Uganda is largely on small scale, the country serves as a transit point for gold exports from neighbouring Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), which has large reserves.
Uganda has been keen to attract investors to its mining sector after government surveys established the existence of minerals including gold, base metals, uranium, rare earths, iron, titanium, vermiculite and diamond in various locations.
Report by by Robert Mwesigye and Collins Hinamundi
Is a rock found in your land a mineral and therefore vested in the State?
A family in Oyam District has sued the Government of Uganda and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd for unlawfully crushing ‘its’ rock into aggregate and using it to construct Karuma hydro-electric power dam without compensation, Oil in Uganda exclusively reveals.
In the suit Etot Paul and others Vs Attorney General and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd, filed in 2015 in the Land Division of the High Court, the family of Mzee Etot wants court to compel Government and Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd – a Chinese company constructing the 600 megawatts Karuma dam, to pay for aggregate derived from the family rock.
According to the family, it all started in 2012, when the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development decided to compulsorily acquire land near and around Karuma to pave way for the construction of the dam.
“Part of Mzee Etot’s land was among parcels that government acquired for construction of the dam. However, government only assessed the value of the land and development on it without taking into consideration the value of the rock on the land,” family spokesperson told Oil in Uganda.
The family claims that since it owns the land, it also owns the rock on the land, and therefore deserves compensation for the value of the rock.
“Consequently, government unlawfully took over the family’s parcels of land adjacent to river Nile, and handed it to Sino Hydro Corporation Ltd for the construction of the dam,” the plaint reads, further noting that part of the land which also contains a rock is also their property.
Through their lawyer, George Omunyokol, the family claims Sino Hydro Corporation brought a rock crusher and crushed the rock into aggregate that it is using to construct Karuma hydro-electric power dam free of charge.
Omunyokol argues that stones and rocks are not minerals and therefore government should compensate the family for unlawful use of its rock.
“The stone/rock in our clients land is not a mineral because the Constitution excludes it from minerals,” he states in the plaint.
Omunyokol’s argument is premised on Article 244(1) of the Constitution of Uganda that vests the entire property in and control of all minerals and petroleum in government on behalf of the Citizens.
Article 244 (5) of the Constitution excludes clay, murram, sand or any stone commonly used for building or similar purposes. “So, clearly, the Constitution is clear, it excludes stones from minerals,” Omunyokol told Oil in Uganda.
Consequently, the family hired professional geologists to quantify the value of the rock and according to the technical evaluation report seen by Oil in Uganda, puts the value of the rock at $ 6.5million (approximately Shs 22 billion).
According to the geologists, the rock has capacity to produce about 650,000 tons of aggregates. Therefore, at a market value of $10 (about Shs 33,000/=) per ton, the rock is worth $ 6.5 million (about Shs 22bn). Therefore, in the suit, the family wants court to order government to pay $ 6.5 million in compensation.
In addition, the Chief Government Valuer conducted valuation of the entire family property which includes; the value of crops, buildings and land to worth 813million Uganda shillings. These monies have not been paid to date.
Oil in Uganda has established that government withheld payment of the compensation, due to the standoff over the rock.
The family seeks a declaration that the actions of Sino Hydro Corporation quarrying the family’s rock, crushing it into aggregates and using the aggregates for the construction without compensation is unlawful and unconstitutional and seek compensation for the value of the crushed rock at the market rate.
However, the Attorney General, in a Written Statement of Defense to the suit, insists that a rock is a mineral and therefore vested in government and the family is not entitled to any compensation so court should dismiss the suit with costs.
“In respect of the claim for compensation for the rocks found on the suits, the plaintiffs [family] are not entitled to compensation in view of the provisions of the Constitution read together with various provisions of the Mining Act 2003,” the AG argues in the defense.
According to Andrew Karamagi, the legal argument by George Omunyokol is sound since rock is part of land and is not a mineral, hence its value should be factored into the computation for the final value of the said piece of land.
“There is a Latin maxim about land which argues to the effect that cujus est solum ejus usque ad coelum (translated to mean- he who owns the land owns everything above and below it). In mutatis mutandis with the Constitution of Uganda which precludes minerals, it is clear that this rock is on the land and is therefore part of the impugned land,” he told Oil in Uganda.
Last year, Uganda National Roads Authority (UNRA), was embroiled in wrangle with businessman Pius Mugalaasi, over the value of a rock on the Entebbe- Express highway on his land. The Roads Authority was eventually forced to divert the road.
The value of rocks found on land is becoming an issue given the demand of aggregate for various on-going projects. If for instance the court rules that a rock is not a mineral, and therefore a property of the land owner, even when exploited for commercial purposes, will set a precedent that could raise the value of rocky lands.
Report by Edward Ssekika.
The three joint venture partners operating in the Albertine Graben have launched the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) studies for Nwoya and Buliisa oil fields in a bid to fast track oil production by 2020. Total E&P Uganda , Tullow oil and China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) signed the pact yesterday (February 14, 2017) at Sheraton Hotel in Kampala and was witnessed by Minister for Energy Eng. Irene Muloni, Mike Cleaver Vice President of Chicago Bridge and Iron Company(CBI) , Ashley Rees Managing Director of Fluor and Maxine Mikoyan Vice President of Technip.
Technip, Fluor and Chicago Bridge and Iron Company (CB&I) are the three international contractors that were awarded the contract to undertake the first phase of FEED design completion for a period of six months. Upon successful completion, the two best companies will be invited to compete for Engineering, Procurement and Construction contract. The FEED studies which will cover Exploration Area 1 (EA1) in Nwoya and Exploration Area 2 (EA2) in Buliisa respectively are expected to outline technical aspects of the oil fields (design of trunk pipelines-crude feeder pipelines, Central Processing Facilities which is the most critical infrastructure since it is like ‘first refinery’ and other attendant infrastructure), costs estimates and schedules of implementation of the production phase. According to Energy Minister, Eng. Irene Muloni, who was present at the signing of the design engineering studies framework, Uganda’s target of having first oil remains 2020. “We gave the joint venture partners up to the end of this year (December 31, 2017) to make a Final Investment Decision (FID); a decision on whether to invest or not to invest in our country,” she said, adding that government expects the oil companies to abide by the agreed deadline as penned on the production licenses awarded last August. “Joint venture partners have sunk in over $ 3 billion for the last 10 years. So they are also looking forward to recouping their investment and everyone is asking government why it is taking us forever to get out oil out of the ground,” she noted. Therefore, Final Investment Decision (FID) by the end of 2017, and ‘first oil’ by 2020, must become a reality, Muloni emphasized.
Speaking on behalf of the joint venture partners, General Manager Total E&P Uganda, Adewale Fayemi explained that FEED studies will allow the joint venture partners to make a Final Investment Decision (FID) before the end of this year as per the contracts signed with government of Uganda. “This is a milestone in the country’s journey towards oil production by 2020. We are currently preparing a call for tender for enabling infrastructure design work which is expected to be awarded in May, 2017,” Adewale told Oil in Uganda. He further revealed that the FEED studies will however not include the kingfisher area operated by CNOOC-this is yet to be launched.
The enabling infrastructure are works required ahead of major engineering and construction work including local access, site preparation, fencing and similar tasks for which Ugandan companies are expected to be involved. Exploration Area 1 and 2 will require at least one CPF located in Buliisa district and will have capacity to produce 200,000bpd. The second CPF will be located in the Kingfisher area and will capacity to produce 30,000bpd. In total, the country expects to produce 230,000 barrels of oil per day, out of which the refinery will require 30,000 barrels while the 200,000 barrels will be exported through the East African Crude Oil Pipeline. Last month, the governments of Tanzania and Uganda launched the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project ( EACOP) which is expected to be completed after eight months.
Report by Edward Ssekika.
The Internal Mines report reveals that the company has so far invested only $ 51 million in revamping the mine but there are no mechanisms of tracking the ‘actual’ investment in the mine
Technocrats in the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) under the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development have ordered Tibet Hima Industry Mining Company Ltd to halt its activities over safety concerns, Oil in Uganda has learnt.
In the recent Internal Mines Inspection report submitted to Director of Mines, the technocrats noted that Tibet Hima Mining Company flouting all the terms of the concession agreement.
“We recommend that Tibet Hima Industry Mining Company Ltd halt mining activities until it has put in place adequate occupational health and safety provisions, which include proper underground ventilation, provision of relevant protective gear to mine workers, safety and precautionary signage in underground workings, a processing plant and in all concession projects,” the report reads.
“Miners were found working without protective gears which is dangerous to their health and as regards to mining best practices, it was also evident that mining methods being used did not cater for sustainable exploitation of Uganda’s mineral resources,” the report elaborates.
Tibet Hima Industry Mining Company, a consortium of Chinese companies was awarded a concession to revive the mining activities at Kilembe copper mines, process copper and associated minerals to final products in 2013.
According to the DGSM technocrats, the findings are based on field inspection of the mine conducted between June and July 2016 and it exhibited that mining operations at Kilembe site is more of a shadow of the previous Kilembe Mines operation described as ‘mechanized artisanal operation.’
As the regulator of the sector, DGSM undertook on-site inspection of Kilembe mines mainly to appraise concessionaire’s performance in regards to undertakings outlined specifications on the concession agreement.
Interestingly, the report acknowledges that since signing the concession with Government three years ago, Tibet Hima Mining Company has been able to rehabilitate the cobalt concentrator plant; where they have imported and fabricated on site flotation cells, installed a 1,500 ton per day ball mill and accessory spiral classifier, renovated one of the two existing thickeners and one of the six existing crushed ore bins, and also installed a new vacuum concentrate filtration unit among others.
The report however states that despite these achievements, the procurement procedures were done without passing through the agreed channels and procurement committees.
The company committed itself to injecting in $ 175 million to revamp the mines, rehabilitate the concentrator plant by replacing all the floatation cells and replace all the old mills with new modern mills in order to produce more than 24,000 tons per annum of copper in the first three years.
According to Alex Kwatampora, the Project Manager at Tibet Hima Mining Company, the report do reflect on the gaps in their activities but they have since rectified the problems. He explained that the company is going to invest $ 175 million dollars in a phased approach and part of this money ($ 26 million) will go towards upgrading Mubuku hydro power dam from the current 5 megawatts of power to 12 megawatts and finally to 17.6 megawatts.
“Yes we had some gaps at the time of inspection, but we have corrected them. We have recruited new mine engineers and provided all workers with protective gear in line with the recommendations,” he explained to Oil in Uganda.
Weighing on the investment, Kwatampora explained that DGSM technocrats’ mandate is to ensure that the company adheres to the technical aspects spelt out in the concession and not delve on the investment since it is not their concern.
“We write quarterly reports to Ministry of Finance about the investments,” he told Oil in Uganda.
“People have to understand that this is an old mine, re-opening it is not easy like building a new one, it is costly and requires a lot of time,” Kwatampora said adding that the company is to construct a copper smelter and refinery plant to process copper.
Tibet Hima Mining Company Ltd will also conduct a comprehensive mineral exploration to increase on the known reserves of 4.5 million tonnes of copper at Kilembe
The internal report reveals that the company has so far invested only $ 51 million in revamping the mine but there are no mechanisms of tracking the ‘actual’ investment in the mine.
Among other concerns raised by the report; the company does not have a mine surveyor, a mine geologist as well as a geotechnical engineer to assist the mining engineer in monitoring the underground operations and recommends that it should employ these professional before resuming business.
“Tibet Hima Mining Company Limited need to be instructed to fast track its undertakings as spelt out in the Concession Agreement, given that it recognizes it is behind schedule and ordered to file audited financial statements for purposes of tracking its investment,” the report recommends.
Tibet Hima Mining Company Ltd officials however insist that it has rectified the problems and therefore no need to halt its activities.
This is not the first time Tibet Hima Mining Company has been accused of irregularities. In March 2016, the company was forced to suspend its operations after an assessment report by the National Environment Management Authority indicated that the company’s sewage disposal unit had a negative environmental impact on the people in the area and the river Nyamwamba water streams.
Whether the recommendation of the technical team will be effected still remains interplay between the technical arm of government and the president’s politics of ‘not fighting my investors’.
Report by Edward Ssekika.
In this part two of our artisanal miners’ series, we delve in the lack of a clear tax framework to generate revenues for local governments from artisan mining activities. We analyze the potential amount of money local governments could generate, but are currently losing from Gold mining operations.
The Mining Score Card recently launched by ActionAid Uganda in partnership with Africa Centre for Mining Policy (ACEMP) and National Planning Authority (NPA) revealed that there is a weak reporting practice in the mining sector.
It also revealed that even though the mining sector has a great potential of contributing to economic growth and poverty alleviation in the country; less has been done to harness this.
The office of the Auditor General last year revealed in his Value-for-Money Audit report 2016 that government had lost at least 4.4 billion shillings (approx.1.3 million dollars) in uncollected mineral royalties in the last five years.
Currently, the government has embarked on undertaking review processes to update the relevant mining legislations. A Draft Green Paper on Mineral Policy is before the cabinet for review and the review of the Mining Act 2003 is yet to commence.
One of the proposed amendments is the regularization of artisanal mining in Uganda to legally recognize them; integrate them in formal tax arrangements; enable them qualify for social goods, services and infrastructure and to increase revenues to local governments for proper managements. The consequences of under-regulation of artisan miners have wide ramifications and are far-reaching. It includes artisan miners not having access to social goods, services and infrastructure put in place by government; not being taxed appropriately; being prone to machinations by unscrupulous individuals in authorities; local governments not being able to realize their revenue collection targets; and being exposed to crime and conflicts.
The lack of clear sub-national taxation arrangements for artisan miners and utilization of revenue collected from artisan mining is denying local governments of much needed revenues. This is mainly not due to policy or legislative deficiencies, but more due to policy implementation and legislative enforcement. Busoga region is rich in mineral resources particularly Aluminous clays, yttrium, and rare metals such as gallium and Scandium estimated at $370 billion (about Shs942 trillion) by Kweri Investments, the company conducting Feasibility studies in the region. This wealth as mentioned in Part one; has attracted an influx of immigrants from all over the country and as far as Kenya who hope to tap into these resources.
According to Methuselah Batambuze, Community Development officer Buddaya sub-county, the population at Nabwala mining site before the influx was about 2000 and the indigenous people were into agriculture. He however noted that in 2015, with the discovery of gold in that area, the population increased to over 10,000 people.
Batambuze adds that when the miners were convinced that gold was ‘finished’, some left in search for new mining sites.
“What you are seeing now are trucks taking the tailings to other places where they are processed using cyanide for better results,” he told Oil in Uganda
Majidu Musisi, who took part in the first exploration and exploitation for gold in the area in the early 1990s, says he has been at it for now 10 years and has made on average 4 million shillings a week on bad days and over 20 million shillings on good days.
“I have invested in real estate and own more than 5 commercial buildings in Bugiri Municipality,” subdued Musisi reveals to Oil in Uganda.
‘I have also created employment for all these people you see in this mining site,’’ he added pointing to hundreds of youth digging for gold around the site.
A simple analysis of the money made by Musisi in one week; at a conservative estimate of UGX 4 million a week, he makes UGX 16 million a month and UGX 192 million a year. He then shares this money with the people he has employed which to our surprise do not even add-up to 50% of the money Musisi earns. A miner who works at the pit is paid a minimum wage of UGX. 25,000 a day. This money is not taxed because Musisi, like other artisanal miners, are still regarded as an illegal miner.
According to the Mining Act 2003, royalties are to be shared with mineral producing districts based on a basic revenue sharing schemes. The Second Schedule to the Mining Act stipulates that the central government is to take 80% of royalties collected and then distribute the remaining 20% as follows; 17% to “local governments” and 3% to “landowners or bona-fide occupants of land subject to mineral rights.”
This presupposes that central government would first collect the royalties before the local government can benefit from the contribution, implying that local governments do not have the right to tax/ collect the royalties. This is undermining revenue generation and social goods and services delivery at local government level. A failure on the part of central government to collect the royalties on time in the right amounts and distribute them accordingly to the beneficial local governments further worsens the revenue situation at local level. Consequently, local governments suffer financial deficiencies and stress.
The above cited revenue sharing scheme is common in mineral rich jurisdictions and therefore is a widely acceptable practice. However, whether it is the best practice for central government to first collect the royalties and then distribute them to the respective beneficiary district is not clear. We do appreciate that it is good practice to recognize the rights of landowners and bona-fide occupants of land where minerals are discovered and exploited. It is our opinion that local governments are given right to collect royalties and deduct what is due to them and remit that due to central government.
Our rough calculation indicates that if this money would, however, be taxed and royalties deducted, the district is to take 10 per cent of the revenues in royalties and it would generate about UGX. 19 million to its budget. This revenue contribution would be just from Musisi and assuming there are 100 other miners in Bugiri district making the same amount of money, it would be UGX. 1.9bn hence make significant contribution to the district budget.
According to the Bugiri district Budget Framework paper 2016/2017, the rest of the district’s UGX 21 billion shillings budget comes from government and donor programmes.
Interestingly, Musisi has never paid a single direct tax from the income derived from the sale of his gold to the ever available gold trading middlemen.
Just like in other mining areas Oil in Uganda has visited, the roads to the mining area where Musisi operates are impassable during the rainy season.
“If you are not round here and you want access my mining area, you cannot access it when you are not driving a four-wheeled car,” he warns.
Sadly, even the basic amenities like a pharmacy or clinic are not available for the miners who work there.
Some of these things would be solved through paying royalties as District revenues would increase.
According to Shafic Butanda, the Acting Community development Officer Bugiri District, in the more than 10 years small scale miners have been in Bugiri district, there has never been any contribution to the district budget from them ‘’Even right now we are going for a budget meeting but the briefing papers have mentioned the potential revenues that could be collected from gold mining’’ He adds.
Unfortunately, there has been no government plan to formalise Small scale mining in the country. And in Bugiri district there is no scheme to collect royalties since the law gives those powers to collect revenues to the government, which then shares with the district, the district officers say they were not even aware they could collect taxes from the small scale miners. Mr Shafic Butanda the Acting Community Development Officer says ‘’they will start looking into ways of raising money from the miners’
However, even in this, there appears to be an attempt to raise royalties from small-scale gold miners in the Neighbouring district of Namayingo, where according to the Banda Subcounty Chairperson Oguttu Bonaventure, they collect some ‘’little’ money from the miners at Nakuddi gold mining site. “What we collect is based on the same rates as the trading license for the shops in the sub-county which is still little money,’’ he says.
A Case study on revenue sharing schemes in the mining areas of Kabale and Moroto districts commissioned by Transparency International Uganda in 2015, found that while the districts complained of lack of information and erratic payment of their royalties share from government, even government itself doesn’t have enough information and depends on the disclosures of the miners to collect royalties, which in the case of small-scale miners is nonexistent.
This is because small scale miners are usually individuals who rent portions of land for mining from an individual, with an agreement to share what is found on the ground, this is what happens in Nabwala Bugiri district and Nakudi in Namayingo district. Taxing individuals has always been hard and there is an effort by various civil society organisations including ActionAid Uganda to help small-scale miners in Uganda form associations, help them acquire mining licenses and formalise their relationship with government.
This turn of events according to Mr Shafic Butanda, Community Development Officer of Bugiri district will prompt the district to look at creating a mining policy modelled on the National mining policy ‘’Maybe that way we can also help our people benefit from the minerals in the district,’’ he says.
We recommend that local governments are given right to collect royalties and deduct what is due to them and remit the rest to central government. This way local government will not starve of revenues.
Report by Collins Hinamundi Oil, Gas and Land reporter
High court Masindi has indefinitely postponed the hearing of the Rwamutonga case where more than 200 families were brutally evicted to pave way for the construction of oil waste treatment plant, Oil in Uganda has learnt.
Justice Albert Rugadya Atwoki, High Court resident judge Masindi was expected to give a ruling on an application on January 19, 2017but informed the court that he would make a ruling on notice.
According to Bashir Twesigye, Executive Director Civic Response on Environment and Development, the judge’s move to make his ruling on notice shows that the judge is not comfortable with the case hence the hesitation to make a decisive ruling.
“Hon. Justice Rugadya should not have any excuse ruling on the case because he has had six months to study the case,” he argued.
“The judge making a ruling on notice means that he will make a decision when he feels ready,” he explained to Oil in Uganda, adding that since the first ruling was done last year, this second ruling would give the evictees a mileage and has been pending for a year.
The families were evicted in August 2014 from the two pieces of land; one titled in the names of Robert Bansigaraho and another in Joshua Tibagwa. The affected families have since been living in Kakoopo Internally Displaced Persons camp (IDP) with no stable source of livelihood.
Nelson Atich, Bugambe District Councilor and representative of the evictees told Oil in Uganda, that they are shocked by the judge’s decision to make the ruling on notice.
“We are now thinking of petitioning the Principal Judge over this matter,” he stated.
“When we went to court on 19th, January, 2017, we were surprised when the clerk to the judge told us that the judge will give us the ruling on notice. We are in a dilemma, but we think we are not getting justice from courts of law,” Atich said.
He further added that the evicted families have been living in a camp for close to three years now under inhuman conditions yet the case has not been given priority,” Atich said.
Oil in Uganda has learnt that the court ruling was actually meant to be given on December 8, 2016 but was postponed to January 19, 2017.
Last year, Justice Simon Byabakama, the then resident judge Masindi ,ruled that 53 families out of the 200 families affected were illegally evicted on land owned by Robert Bansigaraho since the eviction court order was issued in error.
Justice Byabakama in his ruling also ordered Bansingaraho to compensate the evictees for the unlawful eviction.
“The eviction was unlawful and should not have happened in the first place because at the time of the execution of the warrant of vacant possession, there was an ongoing suit to determine true ownership of the land,” ruled Justice Simon Byabakama last year.
The court went ahead to award costs of the application to the residents, but declined to restore them on the land until the main suit was determined.
In their case application, the evictees, through their lawyers Iam Musinguzi of Musinguzi and Co. Advocates and Jonathan Okiria, an advocate with Justice Centers Uganda in Hoima are seeking a declaration that the families were unlawfully evicted by Tibagwa Joshua and should be awarded compensation.
In November 2016, Betty Amongi, Minister of lands visited Rwamutonga camp and appointed a probe committee to investigate and establish the rightful owners of the disputed land.
According to Isaac Kawooya, Hoima Resident District Commissioner, the committee finalized its investigations and has submitted a report to the minister.
Report by Edward Ssekika
With red dust all over his body, a short well-built man, probably in his 40s steps out of a 50-foot pit, to speak to Oil in Uganda on his mining journey.
His name is Majidu Musisi, Chairman of Nabwala Gold Mining site in Budde, Bugiri district which has over 500 small scale gold miners. Musisi works with his wife, Nekesa Beatrice and together, they brave the pits and tunnels below the ground in search of the ever elusive gold rocks.
‘’I have been mining gold in this area since 2006, and even though other people have left with the belief that gold is done, I still think we can find more if we dig further into the ground ‘’ Musisi says.
In his search for gold, Musisi uses rudimentary tools like a hand-held pick axe, shovels, and hoes. Quickly, he rather adds that he knows that he needs protective gear like a helmet for his head and gloves, nose-masks and gumboots for his hands, nose and legs to protect him from getting into contact with mercury during washing and amalgamation process.
“These protective gears are expensive to buy,” he says, adding that they prefer to use bare hands and purchasing gloves, gumboots and nose-masks will ‘economically’ take him back.
“If we were using excavators, it would be different.”
It is a common sight to find men, women, and children searching for gold from a mixture of soil, water, and mercury. However, while the local miners crave mercury to help them get gold, they are also inviting ill health that could cause death with the same measure.
According to the World health Organization (WHO) exposure to mercury is the biggest cause of health hazards facing Small scale or artisanal gold miners. The UN organization says in a report on the Health effects of Mercury that due to Mercury’s effects, children and women of child-bearing age are considered vulnerable populations because it says mercury can be passed from a mother to her unborn child.
And yet at gold mines in Namayingo district, eastern Uganda, mercury is one of the vital possessions every miner must have. The liquid chemical is highly sought after as they apply it during the process to extract gold from dust dug ground from the Gold rocks in the mines.
Dr. Joseph Gyagenda of Nsambya hospital last year told Oil in Uganda that mercury was a heavy metal that could not easily be absorbed by living organisms, including humans and could cause permanent mental disability and a range of other conditions.
A walk around Nabwaala mining site, deep open-abandoned pits are littered all over the place; often with no kind of forewarning of probable accidents and some pits obscured by thickets.
Because of the rudimentary methodology, mounds of tailings stand at several meters high overlying on the edges of the pits that are sometimes more than 50 feet deep.
On a rainy day, accidents are imminent as the loose earth simply collapses into the pit, nostalgic Lubanga Ronald states.
When digging tunnels into the ground, there are no re-enforcements on the walls of the tunnels. This, according to Batambuze Methuselah, the Community Development officer of Budhaya Sub-county can make the walls collapse during the rainy season.
According to Musisi, four people have lost their lives after pits collapsed on them. In Nsango B gold mining site in Namayingo district, two people lost their lives in the same way in 2015.
“People here just mine and if they find no gold, they abandon the pit and start digging another one without filling the hole created,” Musisi narrates, adding that even stoarge of tailings has become a challenge in the area.
In Uganda, artisanal and small-scale mining has for years been recognized as illegal and there is no regulatory framework that governs them. This has also created loopholes on the checks and balances since the safety measures cannot be enforced.
According to the Acting Community development officer Bugiri District Shafic Butanda, the district has not taken interest in gold mining in the district.
‘’Gold mining is a new thing, so politicians in the district have not shown interest in it and we are forced to reach out to the central government to take up the issue of regulating small scale miners’’ he told Oil in Uganda.
The visit to Busoga revealed that artisanal mining, just like other areas around the country is a source of livelihood for many Ugandans. A recent study estimates that over 400,000 people in Uganda who are directly engaged in the activity and additional 1.5 million benefitting indirectly.
This is a part one series of the gold story in Uganda. In the subsequent part, we visit the Mubende mines whose operations are comparatively at a more sophisticated level.
Report by Collins Hinamundi and Robert Mwesigye