The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has formally expressed interest to join the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP), Oil in Uganda has established.
Uganda and Tanzania plans to construct a 1,445 km long, 24-inch diameter, heated pipeline to provide access for Uganda’s crude oil to the international market.
Uganda’s Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Irene Muloni noted that Democratic Republic of Congo government is considering EACOP as an alternative route to access the international market for its crude from newly discovered oil resources in the eastern part of the country.
“The DRC government has formally expressed interest to join crude pipeline project. They see it [EACOP] as an alternative route for their crude to the market,” she said, while launching the Front End Engineering Designing (FEED) for the crude oil pipeline project recently.
An American Company Gulf Interstate is conducting the FEED study that is expected to provide the actual designs, costs and route for the crude oil pipeline. The study that was launched early January 2017 is expected to be completed within 8 months.
Muloni explained that when they (Uganda and Tanzania team) was inspecting the Tanga port last year, they were joined by an official delegation from the Democratic Republic of Congo’s Ministry of Hydrocarbons, and the delegation expressed interest to participate in the crude oil pipeline project.
“This is potential route for them to access the international market,” she explained. This means DRC government, if admitted will be expected to acquire a stake in the EACOP and pay a tariff of $ 12 dollars per every barrel of crude oil transported through the pipeline.
The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) has so far discovered 3 billion barrels of oil around Lake Albert Eastern and part of the country, which neighbors Uganda. However, it is yet to be confirmed how much of the 3 billion barrels is recoverable. It is therefore cheaper for DRC to transport its crude through EACOP and the Alternative being construction of a 6,500 kilometer long pipeline running though the vast jungles to the country’s western coast line.
Last year, Giuseppe Cicarelli, the Chief executive officer of Oil of DRCongo, one of the companies exploring for oil in Eastern DRC, said access to the least cost option to get crude to the international market is vital to the next round of investment the company is supposed to make.
“Oil of DRCongo is actively working to find viable solutions for the future evacuation of the crude oil from block I and II of Lake Albert, having already completed an extensive seismic campaign,” he said. Oil of DRCongo, operates two blocks around Lake Albert.
DRC’s expression of interest follows, President Museveni recent appeal to his Congolese counterpart, Joseph Kabila to consider joining the northern corridor projects, in particular the East African crude oil pipeline.
French oil giant, Total S.A is one of the companies exploring oil in northeastern DRC. Total holds 66 percent stake in Block 3, located along Lake Albert alongside with South Africa’s SacOil.
Total ‘has 54.9 majority stake in Uganda’s’ following a partial farm- down with Tullow, though the transaction awaits government approval. With oil exploration activities in DRC, a controlling stake in Uganda’s oil fields and interests in Tanzania’s oil exploration activities, it makes economic sense for the company to push DRC government to join EACOP.
Total has already indicated its willingness to finance to the crude oil pipeline is likely to be the biggest financier of the crude oil pipeline.
Report by Edward Ssekika
President Yoweri Museveni has defended the ‘oil cash bonanza’ in which 42 top civil servants and government officials were rewarded Shs. 6bn for their role in defending the oil tax cases in both Uganda and London.
The President said the oil cash bonanza; now commonly known as ‘presidential golden handshake’ was deliberate and did not break any law.
“I reject that I did anything wrong. I’m very proud of these young people,” he reportedly told National Resistance Movement Members of Parliament on Tuesday while addressing a caucus meeting at State House Entebbe.
In anticipation of a heated debate in parliament over the oil cash payouts, Museveni said that the Tullow-Heritage case was no ordinary case and castigated Members of Parliament for insulting ‘good people’.
“It was an international war, which the lawyers and the tax ladies [Ms. Allen Kagina and Ms. Akol Doris won amidst pressure, challenges and the temptations that they faced,” he said.
Other officials who benefited from the ‘presidential golden handshake include; former Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Energy, Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, former URA’s head of legal affairs and ED KCCA, Jennifer Musisi, Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, former Attorney General Peter Nyombi and his deputy, Fred Ruhindi, Lawrence Kiiza from Ministry of Finance, Ernest Rubondo, the Executive Director of PAU, Francis Atoke, the Solicitor General, lawyers; Ali Ssekatawa (URA), Martin Mwambutsya (then State Attorney), Peter Muliisa among others.
Museveni told Mps that during court proceedings of the case, he was approached by many people who advised him to settle the issue outside court, because Uganda was likely to lose a lot of money. He explained that he was strengthened by the Ugandan team that they were going to win the case – and it was through that background that he decided to thank the team.
“If the support staff were part of the big war that saved Uganda trillions and gained $ 451m, if they get shs,50 million for their first time in life, it is okay. It was their luck and they were part of the war,” Museveni told Mps.
He defended his action arguing that in the last 30 years, he has given a monetary ‘handshake’ twice.
He explained that the first ‘golden handshake’ was in 2006 when he gave out $20,000 to a group of scientists in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development when they discovered oil and the second one being the Oil cash bonanza.
However, he said the only thing that could have gone wrong is that the list of beneficiaries could have been inflated behind his back.
“Perhaps there is a possibility that the list of beneficiaries was infiltrated and other names included. This has to be investigated,” he noted.
Report by Edward Ssekika.
Gold miners in Mubende district have commended the safety campaign championed by Action Aid international to promote health and safety standards in the mines.
During a recent visit by Oil in Uganda to the gold mines early this year, several miners in Kitumbi sub county, Mubende District expressed their gratitude to Action Aid International for providing them with safety gears and providing a platform for awareness.
Nakimuli Shamim, one of the beneficiaries explained that she was unaware of the importance of using safety gear while washing the gold dust.
“Now that I understand how important this safety gear is, I can now wash up to 8 basins of gold dust without worrying about getting sick from exposure to mercury,” she narrated to Oil in Uganda.
“Before, I used to develop itchy skin rashes but my hands are now covered with gloves and I also have gum boots to protect my legs,” she noted.
Nakimuli adds that using the safety gear will eventually see her walk home with a high income since she will be able to work for longer hours.
As for Nalukuuma Juliet who has been in the gold industry for three years, the use of safety gear had never crossed her mind.
She narrates that she would endure the tedious process of washing the gold dust despite the fact that her hands always developed small painful swellings.
“If you are looking for money, you have to endure and keep working even if you have those small swellings. If you do not work you cannot be paid,” she stated.
Nalukuuma further adds that often, it is uncomfortable working under the sun while wearing the safety gear but one has to persevere.
According to Zziwa Hussein, a grinding machine operator, he is now protected from the dust emitted during the crashing process that has made him suffer from constant chest pains.
I now hope that the chest pains from inhaling too much dust will reduce with this safety gear,” he says.
In August 2016, over 80 miners in Lubaali, Lujjinji B and Kampala mining sites in Mubende district received safety gears including gumboots, waterproof overalls, nose masks and helmets from Action Aid International in a bid to promote health and safety conditions in mines.
Report by Josephine Nabaale
Don Binyina is the Executive Director Africa Centre for Mineral Policy and the new Chair of the Audit Committee of the International Conference of the Great Lakes Region Protocol (ICGLR) against the Illegal Exploitation of Natural Resources. Read More
Government will in February 2017 relocate 46 families who opted for resettlement to pave way for the proposed oil refinery in Kabaale parish, Buseruka sub-county, Hoima District, Francis Elungat, the Land Acquisition officer Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has revealed.
In June 2012, government acquired a 29sq. Kilometre piece of land covering 13 villages Hoima District thus displacing 7,118 people.
The families are to be resettled on a 533-acre piece of land in Kyakabooga village in Buseruka sub-county; 3kms off Bisenyi trading centre located along Kaiso-Tonya road. Kyakabooga village is located 20 kms away from Kabaale parish.
Elungat said that government will first hand over the 46 completed houses to the affected families in February and also provide food supplies to the families for the next six months.
“Each family has been promised a cow, two goats, 10 kilograms of maize seedlings, a machete, hoe and other domestic tools,” he revealed, adding that these supplies are meant to sustain the families till when they will be self-reliant.
“The other 29 families that did not have houses on the land will also receive land titles of their lands in this same area,” he added.
According to Elungat, each family will be allocated a piece of land the same size as the one they previously owned in the refinery area.
“We are giving a minimum of one acre even for those who had less than an acre and each resettled family will have two land titles; one for the house and another for the farmland,” he noted.
Mixed feeling over house design
The completed houses seen by Oil in Uganda, will each have one sitting room, three bed-rooms, an inside bathroom and a kitchen. Outside facilities such as outside kitchen area, pit latrine and bathrooms have been provided for.
The houses will also be connected with hydroelectric power.
Government has also built a seven classroom block about 200 metres away from the resettlement village and Buseruka health centre; which is about 5 kilometres away, has been expanded and upgraded as part of the Resettlement Action Plan implementation to cater for the medical needs of the families.
Despite the houses being built in an urban-like setting, some of the families to be resettled have expressed concerns over the designs.
Ephraim Turyatunga, 47, says Government promised them a 3-bed room house which has a kitchen, toilet, a sitting room and a store.
However, looking at the houses built, Turyatunga says, the kitchen is very small and no store has been provided.
He argues that his family is comprised of 15 people who may not fit into the three bed room house.
“I stay with my father, mother and two of my married sons and their families. Will we all fit in that small house?” he questioned.
“Even the food package which government is providing for is not going to be enough to feed my family.”
Warom Gura, 50 and a resident of Nyahaira village says he is no longer interested in being relocated.
“I changed my mind. I want compensation but am not sure if Government will listen to me” He told Oil in Uganda.
Gura had a semi-permanent house built of mud and wattle with an iron roof on a 13 acre piece of land where he also cultivated and reared livestock.
“That small house they are giving us in Kyakabooga will not be enough for me since I have a family of 12 people,” he stated.
According to the Hoima district physical planner Robert Mwanguhya, the construction of resettlement houses delayed due to the numerous bureaucratic consultation processes between government, consultant and the project affected persons.
“Government had initially wanted to build a house in the respective land of each relocated family, but the plan was opposed by the affected families on grounds that they wanted to maintain social ties with neighbours” he said.
“We changed the plan to suit the proposals of the families. Now they are shifting goal posts but it is too late” Mwanguhya added.
According to Dennis Obbo, Ministry of Lands spokesperson, in 2015 a team of physical planners conducted a topographic survey that informed the physical planning that was participatory.
The families have waited for resettlement for over 4 years since government commenced the implementation of the Resettlement Action Plan (RAP).
Oil in Uganda has also learnt that Strategic Friends International and government officials have already briefed the refinery-affected persons about the impending relocation exercise.
Report by our Hoima Correspondent
Tanzania Government has expressed concern over delays in the development of the Hoima-Tanga crude oil pipeline, Tanzania Minister for Energy and Mineral Development Prof. Sospeter Muhongo has revealed.
Speaking at the launch of the Front End Engineering Design (FEED) study for the East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project ( EACOP) in Kampala, Prof. Muhongo expressed distress stating that the implementation of the project had been delayed for two months.
“We [Tanzania government] are not happy with the speed at which the project is moving. The launch of FEED was supposed to have been done in November, 2016 and I hope that Uganda can fast-track this process with the contractors to ensure that it is completed within the time frame,” he noted.
He argued that the land acquisition in Uganda is complex compared to Tanzania since in the latter; land belongs to government and is vested in the President making it less strenuous for the project.
“The biggest part of the pipeline will be in Tanzania, something that will make land acquisition for the project easy,” he said.
The FEED study; a fundamental step that will provide detailed engineering design for the pipeline, will be undertaken for eight months by Gulf Interstate Engineering, a Houston, Texas based company and is projected to cost $11.5 (about shs 42bn).
According to Hon. Irene Muloni, Uganda’s Minister for Energy and Mineral Development, the study is expected to identify the actual route and technical designs for the crude oil pipeline as well the estimated cost for the project.
Muloni explained that President Yoweri Museveni has issued a directive to her ministry to ensure ‘first oil’ by 2020.
“Due to the presidential directive, both the oil refinery and crude oil export pipeline will be attended to concurrently and the FEED study shows a clear determination of government to have ‘first oil’ by 2020,” she said.
The East African Crude Oil Pipeline Project (EACOP) is speared-headed by Total E&P Uganda Limited on behalf of the joint venture oil companies and will see construction of a 1,445 Kilometer, 24 inch diameter heated crude oil pipeline.
Muloni further stated that preliminary studies have put the cost of crude oil pipeline at $3.55 billion dollars, but the FEED study is expected to establish the actual cost of the project and hence inform the governments of Uganda and Tanzania as well as joint venture companies to reach a Final Investment Decisions (FID).
According to Jean – Luc Bruggeman, Total’s Mid Stream Project Director, the crude oil pipeline once completed, will be the world’s longest heated pipeline and will require six heating stations from Kabaale to Tanga, a heat tracing system; an electrical cable within the pipeline to keep the temperatures at 50 degrees to enable the oil flow, a fibre optic cable for communications and a high voltage power line.
The Governments of Uganda and Tanzania in partnership with the Lake Albert Upstream Partners (Total, Tullow and CNOOC) last year opted for the Hoima-Tanga route after conducting a feasibility study for the LAPSSET Corridor.
Report by Edward Ssekika.
Tullow Oil PLC has entered into a substantial farm- down of 21.57 per cent of its 33.33 per cent shares in the Exploration Areas in all the Lake Albert Project licenses in EA1, EA1A, EA2 and EA3A to Total E&P Uganda B.V.
The London-based company yesterday announced that a Sale and Purchase Agreement with an effective date of January, 1st, 2017 will allow Tullow retain an 11.76% interest in the upstream and which would reduce to 10% when the Government of Uganda formally exercises its right to back-in.
“This agreement is based on the transfer of licence interests from Tullow to Total in exchange for cash and deferred consideration to be paid as, and when the Lake Albert Development Project reaches a series of key milestones, and represents a reimbursement by Total of a portion of the Tullow’s past exploration and development costs,” partly reads the press statement from Tullow. According to a press statement issued by Total E&P, this transaction will give Total a 54.9% interest, strengthening its position in this competitive project and paving the way for a project sanction in the near future.
“Following the agreement on the Tanzanian export pipeline route, this transaction gives Total a leadership position to move this project efficiently toward FID in the current attractive cost environment, while providing strong alignment and a pragmatic financing scheme for our partner Tullow,” said Patrick Pouyanné, Total Chairman and CEO adding that the increased share in the Lake Albert project will bring significant value to Total and fits with our strategy of acquiring resources for less than $3 per barrel with upside potential.
Aiden Heavey, Tullow Oil Plc Chief Executive Officer (CEO), said the company will remain an active player in Uganda, “Today’s agreement will allow the Lake Albert Development to move ahead swiftly, increasing the likelihood of Final Investment Decision (FID) in 2017 and first oil by the end of 2020. I’m particularly pleased that Tullow’s long-term commitment to and presence in Ugandan is guaranteed by this transaction and that we will remain an active investor in Uganda’s oil and gas sector,”
He added, “The deal will secure future cash flow for the group from one of the industry’s few truly low cost development projects without any additional cash requirements expected. We will work closely with the government of Uganda, its associated agencies and with Total and CNOOC to move this transaction forward as smoothly as possible over the coming months.”
The farm down is likely to raise once again tax disputes. Of recent, such disposals have attracted Capital Gains Tax (CGT) which has been a center of oil litigations between government and the International Oil Companies.
Both companies strongly assert that completion of farm dawn is subject to approval from government of Uganda.
“Once this transaction is completed, Tullow will cease to be an operator in Uganda but will retain a presence in-country to manage its non-operated position,” the press statement notes.
The Lake Albert Development Project is a major development which expects to achieve around 230,000 barrels per day at peak/plateau production.
Report by Edward Ssekika
Following the oil cash bonanza in which 42 top government officials were rewarded with colossal sums of ‘oil money’, activists want an audit of the entire oil sector.
This move follows a public uproar, over ‘the ‘scandal’ in which 42 top government officials, were paid Shs 6bn (about $1,656,000) as a reward for winning Tullow and Heritage cases over Capital Gains Tax.
Winfred Ngabiirwe, the Executive Director, Global Rights Alert, says the ‘oil cash bonanza’ speaks volumes of how oil money is and will be spent.
“This bonanza confirms our fears that oil revenues will not deliver the country from poverty,” she explains.
“The level of secrecy and the impunity of the key players in the sector only confirm that Uganda is creating her own model of oil curse. It appears, those in power have decided to eat what they can eat, uncertain when production will start and oil dollars start flowing,” she argues.
According to Ngabiirwe, all these are attributed to government’s delay or refusal to sign up to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), a global frame that promotes transparency and accountability in the extractives sector.
The EITI framework, she argues, would enable Ugandans to know how much the country is earning from oil and gas resources and how the money is spent.
“We need a forensic audit of the entire sector. First, we need to know whether the country is collecting the right amounts of money from oil companies, and are oil companies paying right taxes to our coffers and then Ugandans must follow the money. Short of that, we are dreaming that will benefit our country,” she demands.
Gerald Karuhanga, the Ntungamo Municipality Member of Parliament, concurs with Ngabiirwe echoing that the cash bonanza is a confirmation of how oil money will be put to waste.
He argues that the fact that government can extravagantly spent colossal sums of money on “a golden presidential handshake’, for simply winning a case, what will happen when the ‘real’ petro dollars begin to flow.
Defending the oil cash bonanza, Sarah Birungi Banage, Uganda Revenue Authority’s Assistant Commissioner for Public and Corporate Affairs, notes that the ‘presidential golden handshake’, was in appreciation of the exemplary performance by the team and a standard international best practice.
“….. government granted the team involved an honorarium or bonus or golden handshake totaling Shs 6bn. This represented less than 1% of the amount brought in or defended,” reads in part a statement from URA.
“The team brought in a combined total of $700m into government coffers after a series of court battles in Uganda’s Tax Appeals Tribunal, High Court, Court of Appeal and High Court of London, Court of Appeal of UK, and two international tribunals. This was from the Heritage transaction and the subsequent Tullow transaction. The two cases were an unprecedented win for the country, and the first of its kind in Africa in the sector of Oil and Gas Taxation,” the statement further notes.
The officials who benefited from the ‘presidential golden handshake include; former Permanent Secretary in Ministry of Energy Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, URA’s Commissioner General Doris Akol, former URA’s head of legal affairs and ED KCCA Jennifer Musisi, Secretary to the Treasury Keith Muhakanizi, former Attorney General Peter Nyombi and his deputy, Fred Ruhindi, Lawrence Kiiza from Ministry of Finance, Ernest Rubondo, the executive director of PAU, Francis Atoke, the Solicitor General. Others include lawyers; Ali Ssekatawa (URA), Martin Mwambutsya (then State Attorney), Peter Muliisa among others.
In November, 2015, President Yoweri Museveni wrote to the Minister of Finance, Hon. Matia Kasaija authorizing cash payments to the 42 government officials.
“I met with a team of officials that handled the case and they requested to be considered for a reward in appreciation for the work done. Given the amount of money that was recovered for the government, I agreed that government pays them some money as a token of appreciation. I therefore direct that a team of 42 government officials be paid Shs 6bn only,” Museveni wrote in his authorization letter.
The oil cash bonanza comes after, the ‘first oil money’ was allegedly illegally released from Bank of Uganda, purportedly on the orders of the President to buy fighter jets in 2013.
Report by Edward Ssekika
ActionAid Uganda together with Makerere Women Development Association skill miners in briquette making
Nabaggala Annet is a member of the Singo artisanal small scale miners association women’s league (SASSMA). She is the pioneer of briquette making in Mubende District and was contacted by the miners to kick start a similar project for the association. ActionAid Uganda in partnership with Makerere Women’s Development Association (MAWDA) conducted a three day training for the women including an on site practical session in briquette making at Nabaggala’s home in Kitumbi sub county. She talked to Oil in Uganda about the project.
What’s your name Nabbagala Annet
Do you deal in gold too? No How did you join Singo artisanal small scale miners’ association (SASSMA)? These gold miners heard about me and my charcoal business. They told me they had a women’s league under their association who I could train in making briquettes. I even have a certificate in making briquettes. Some of them were also my customers. Their secretary Emma asked me to train them. The women were very interested in the business.
Is your business just here? No; currently I’m training women in Busoga. I was taken to Namutumba to train. Who took you to Busoga? There was an agricultural show in Jinja where the women saw me and got interested. One day I got a call asking me to go to Namutumba, then Iganga and train.
How did you learn the trade? There were some Arabs that came; they were under an organization called MODIFA. Then I was a big time farmer. I farm in Kiduuzi village; that’s my home. So these people came and mobilized farmers to teach them how to make briquettes. The idea was to protect the environment by not cutting trees to burn charcoal. The CDO Bukuya, Edward Ssenkusu, is the one who brought these MODIFA people. He told me I was an enterprising person and encouraged me to train. We trained for 12 days at Marvelous hotel. When the CDO approached me I felt like it was a calling. So I talked to my husband and told him I was going to train.
What does your husband do? He’s a farmer as well. We work together and even are members of a group in the village. So he told me if I fail to learn I will have failed Kitumbi sub county. So I studied hard. We even sat for exams. Do came top of the class and was rewarded with the briquette making machines. When I returned I mobilized a residents and told them we would get support as an organised group.
So you started that group? No I mean the briquette business. I started that project in Mubende district. Everyone in the business learnt from me. And I don’t charge any money to teach. Even when I went to Namutumba I was given 100,000 shillings but I spent all on transport. Because I believe if we are many and people are learning from me government can easily support us. In fact at the Jinja agricultural show I brought a trophy for Mubende district. I also networked with some Makerere students who were in the same business to benchmark and learn more. So I partnered with them; in fact, they are the ones who helped me acquire a solar dryer. It costs 740,000 shillings but I had support from them. I’ve made many business acquaintances in this business. Where would you like to see this SASSMA women’s league in say, two years time? I would love to see an expanded market for our product. I would also love for those without machinery to be helped. Also, i would wish for AAU to reach out to those people I trained in Busoga. They have an association; I even have a copy of their constitution. With such support we shall grow stronger. Because they ask me what kind of support I have since I don’t get paid anything. I told them the acquaintances I’ve made in this business helped me acquire machinery.
When did you first learn about AAU? I first heard of it from SASSMA secretary Emma. When they came from training in Tanzania he told us the way we were doing our things had to change. For example we had to use masks not to inhale the briquette dust. He assured me AAU are partners and could help us. You know that dust usually causes one to cough.
What challenges are you finding in your work? In training? Both training and work I have a problem of storage. You see we’re 14 members in our group. We make a lot of charcoal and have run out of storage space. The house is all full. Then we also don’t have enough machinery for work. For example only 3 member can work at a time. If we could all work at once we could even make a ton in a day. We also have a problem with the crusher. It’s too mechanical to operate. For instance it’s cumbersome for a woman to make a bag of briquettes with that crusher. There are some advanced crushers but we cannot afford them. And also I’m always being called to train say to Mubende yet I don’t get paid or facilitated. But because I love what I do. How many districts have you trained people? I have been in Mubende in Myanzi, Kiganda; Mityana, Wakiso. Wherever I go many people get my contacts and call me to train. Yet all I ask for is transport.
So in your work as SASSMA how have you benefited from the partnership with AAU? It’s very beneficial. For AAU to bring these trainers today has really helped in equipping me with more knowledge. For example we have been mixing 10kg of char with a kilo of clay and one of cassava flour and 10 liters of water. But what I have learnt today is different. In fact if market is available we shall earn more.
Stephen Wafula is a happy gold miner in Nakudi village, Banda Sub County, Namayingo district. The 27-year-old, father of 2 children, says, he switched from agriculture to gold mining last year, after witnessing his colleagues ‘prosper’ from mining. “Unlike farming, there is some money in gold mining. I don’t wait for a season, I earn per day,” he narrates, though hesitant to reveal how much he has earned from gold mining.
Byakatunda Katib who also mines in the same area, says they can earn as much as 20 Million shillings ($5,500) a week from Gold mining, if the season is good.
Like other artisanal miners, the use of rudimentary tools like hoes and spades are used in this area to dig deep underground and extract ore with traces of gold. After extracting the ore (soil containing gold) from the ground, the miners normally have two options; to dry, crush, wash and extract the gold or sell the iron ore to other people who can wash it and extract gold for themselves. Either way, the ore is sun dried and then put into a grinder and grounded into fine soil that is then mixed with water and mercury to attract gold dust (particles).
“Without mercury, it is difficult to extract gold particles because we do not have proper mechanization,” Wafula explains. He adds that after extracting gold, the remaining ‘soil’ containing mercury is disposed of in the open ground or sold for further processing using cyanide.
The use of mercury and cyanide is common in all gold mining area like Busia, Mubende, Moroto and Buhweju among others. These hazardous chemicals are mainly used to attract gold particles from the iron ore.
Mercury is a thick, waxy silver chemical that is used in the extraction of secondary gold. This chemical is used to purify gold from ore in a process called amalgamation. During this process, the vapour from the amalgamation (burning of gold particles mixed with mercury) is inhaled by the miner who often does not have protective clothing.
Many miners like Wafula are not aware of the risks of using mercury. Furthermore, they do not have proper healthy and safety gears for protection.
In the latest value for money audit report into the mineral’s sector, the Auditor General, recommends that government should slap a total ban on the use of mercury in gold mining due to health and environmental consequences. The report covers the period between 2011 to 2015.
“The use of mercury and cyanide in gold recovery is a health hazard and should be discouraged else safety precautions should be taken. There is bound to be serious environmental impacts and health issues related to pollution of streams and rivers of Mubende. According to the report, the tailings containing mercury is disposed of in the open, and when it rains mercury finds itself in water streams where the local people fetch water for domestic purposes.
It takes more than 5 years for mercury to completely dissolve into the soil, while it takes 10 years for Cyanide to dissolve into the soil. The Auditor General findings are similar to the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) internal inspection report that also noted illegal mining and ‘harmful mining practices’.
According to the DGSM internal inspection report for June and July this year, the inspection team visited several artisanal mining sites where people were using mercury to recover the gold and the remaining tailings are then washed with cyanide in a makeshift processing plant which is a threat to the environment.
In Namayingo district, the inspection report notes that there is a company known as Lujiji Processing Company that has installed a gold procession plant and uses Cyanide to extract gold from tailings left behind by the artisanal miners who are also using mercury to recover the gold.
“The gold processing operations of Lujiji Processing Company should be halted until an Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) process is finalized and approved by NEMA,” the report recommends.
According to Oguttu Bonventeur Stephen, LC3 Chairperson Banda sub-county, the mercury being used in the mining sites are imported from Kenya through Busia and even as far as from Tanzania. He blames the porous borders and lack of enforcement on the use of the harzadous chemical.
“This mercury is being used a lot here. In a day, I am told they can use about 15-20 kgs of mercury and all that ends up in our water streams,” he told Oil in Uganda during a meeting.
Oil in Uganda has also established that artisanal miners in the mines buys 1 gram of mercury at 600 Uganda shilling at whole sale price and 1000 shillings at retail price.
Emmanuel Kibirige, general secretary, Singo Artisanal Gold Miners Association and a gold miner at Kitumbi, Mubende district, argues that the problem is improper disposal of tailings. He concurs with Auditor General Report, that when it rains, mercury is washed away and end up in streams and water sources.
“The problem is not mercury itself, but its improper disposal. It is disposed of anyhow. I think, we need to find a place, where we can dispose the mud containing mercury, and then treat,” he explains. However, he explains that many miners continue to use mercury without wearing any protective gear. “People here don’t use gloves, they use their bare hands and feet, yet there is mercury,” he said.
During an impromptu visit to some of the mining sites in Bugiri and Namayingo districts respectively, Oil in Uganda also found out that there was limited knowledge on the dangers of mercury and cyanide use.
At Byewunyisa Gold Mining Company in Budhaya Sub-county, the miners had removed their gumboots and were handling the tailings with bare hands, despite the fact that they had just used cyanide to get the gold particles.
The story is not any different from situation at Nsango B mining site where children are engaged in washing crushed iron ore with mercury. Recently, Dr. Tom Okurut, the executive director, National Environment Management Authority (Nema) revealed the use of mercury by miners exposes them to contract diseases like lung and kidney problems.
MINING POLICE The inspection report observes that miners have been sensitized against the use of mercury and environmentally friendly mining, there is very little change and recommends stringent enforcement mechanism. “Government should increase security in all gold rush areas including the establishment of Mining Police to enforce compliance,” the internal report recommends.
Of recently, the government has established units in police to hand specific tasks. For instance, there is the oil and gas protection unit and environment protection unit among others, and therefore the ministry wants a specific unit for mining to enforce compliance with good mining practices.
Report by Edward Ssekika and Collins Hinamundi. Additional information by Beatrice Ongode.