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Mubende evicted gold miners cry foul over President’s new directive

Gertrude Njuba

In a new twist, President Museveni has directed that 30% of AUC Mining Ltd exploration area be granted to Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners and not evicted artisanal miners

Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASMs) in Mubende district are crying foul over President Yoweri Museveni’s letter that they argue negates on all the pledges he has made to them. In a letter dated April 6, 2018, the President directed Irene Muloni, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development to renew exploration licence of AUC Mining (U) Limited in Bukuya and Kitumbi sub counties in Mubende district. The company is linked to bush war heroine and presidential advisor, Gertrude Njuba.

“On 13th, June 2017, I chaired a meeting at State House to discuss the challenges miners were facing in Mubende district following the occupation of the mining areas by illegal miners. The meeting was attended by government officials and directors of AUC Mining (U) Ltd,” President Museveni wrote.

He added, “During the meeting, the company requested among others, for the renewal of their exploration license areas in Mubende district where exploration work was disturbed by illegal miners. The company requested that 100% of their license locations renewed for a period of 5 years as compensation for the time lost and for spoilt work,”

In addition to renewing the licence to three more years, President Museveni also directed as part of the conditions for the renewal that AUC Mining (U) Ltd cedes 30 percent of its exploration licence area to Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners and not to the evicted miners.

“In order to give some compensation to the Company and also renew the licence in accordance with the law, I, therefore, direct that you renew the licence to cover 70% of their applied working areas and for period of 3 years. The remaining 30% of the working area should be given to the Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners. I am informed that this Federation was formed immediately after the illegal miners were expelled from AUC Exploration Licence area in Mubende last year and they include the land and bibanja owners of the area,” the letter concludes.

By the letter, the President however, ignored pleas from the evicted miners to have them re-instated to their former mines. The letter is copied to the Vice President, the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General among others. The directive runs contrary to the Mining Act, 2003 that places such mandate of determining and issuance of the mineral licenses in the Commissioner (Director) of the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM).

LEFT IN THE COLD

The President’s directive has left evicted artisanal and small scale miners in the cold. Last year, more than 60,000 artisanal and small scale gold miners in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties in Mubende district were evicted from the mines arguing that they were illegal. The artisanal miners claim that during the October 2017 meeting at State House, the President pledged to ensure all registered associations that had applied for location licenses to be licenced and supported financially. However, the president’s directive does not refer to the pledges made then.

Soon after the eviction, artisanal gold miners in the district formed an umbrella association of all artisanal mining associations in the district – Mubende United Miner’s Association (MUMA) to follow up on the presidential pledges.

In response to the directive, Mubende United Miners Assembly has written to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Irene Muloni rejecting the grant of 30 percent of AUC’s exploration area to the Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners. They argue that they are not members of the federation, but they should instead be considered.

“While in State House last year, it was resolved that those associations that had applied for location licenses before the eviction be licensed and all these are subscribers to Mubende United Miners Association,” the letter from MUMA reads in part.

“By giving 30% to the Federation shows that the company has not surrendered anything since AUC Mining (U) Ltd is a mother of the federation. We therefore request that before the 30 percent is given away, you cause a meeting between the leadership of MUMA, the Federation, Honourable Peter Lokeris and the technical persons at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines [DGSM] for harmonisation,” Bukya John Bosco wrote on behalf of MUMA in the letter. The artisanal miners argue that the federation is headed by Stella Njuba – a daughter to Gertrude Njuba, the Director of AUC Mining (U) Ltd.

Overall, the struggle for mining and ownership rights in Mubende is still raging and it will take all interested parties to get on a round table and resolve all the issues before final agreement on a win-win outcome benefiting all parties.

Edward Ssekika

Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org