President Museveni meets Mubende miners, pledges on losses
The president was meeting leaders of miners’ associations last month (September) at State House Nakasero in Kampala. The meeting was also attended by Irene Muloni, the minister for energy and mineral development; all legislators from Mubende, political leaders including the LV5 chairperson and RDC among others.
The meeting followed an earlier failed attempt by the miners to meet Museveni in Mubende during his countrywide radio talk show tours on compulsory land acquisition by government to facilitate speedy infrastructure development. The miners had hoped to meet the president on the sidelines of his programme on September 8 at the State Lodge in Mubende.
Speaking to Oil in Uganda, Mr JohnBosco Bukya, the spokesperson of Singo Artisanal and Small Scale Miners’ Association(SASSMA) said the president, while reiterating his dismay with the forceful eviction from the mines, pledged to rehabilitate those that had lost property.
“The president said he wished to come to Bukuya and meet the miners but that would be at a later date after the rehabilitation and progress regarding the miners returning to work,” Mr Bukya said.
Bukya also said their fate now was in the hands of the energy minister after the president learnt there are 10 square kilometers available for the artisanal miners to operate from in Mubende. Bukya said the ministry would facilitate them to do biometric registration of all miners before resuming work.
“Right now we as SASSMA are applying for 2 square kilometers to operate from. And this time round the mines will be more organized. No one will be allowed to sleep in the mines. People will report for work and leave in the evening. This will help with putting the place in order,” he said.
He however still expresses skepticism saying there have been so many empty promises made to them but nothing has ever come to fruition. He said until there is action on ground it’s all still just politics.
The miners were forcefully evicted by armed forces comprising police and the army in scenes of pandemonium. Miners and business people lost property that’s being estimated in billions. Most of the property included expensive machinery that was seized and traders’ merchandise. Suits have been filed in court against government by Individuals and associations for compensation.
The eviction followed a presidential directive that was first delivered verbally by the area leaders. Following the evictions the Energy ministry put out a statement indicating they intended to organize the artisanal miners through registration within three months.
At the heart of the matter is AUC Mining, the investor who has been tussling it out with the artisanal miners. Oil in Uganda has seen a letter penned to State House, Energy Ministry and Directorate of Geological Survey & Mining, citing the immense losses accrued from the miners refusing to leave the company’s licensed area of operation.
The company also cited the loss of data generated from exploration activities due to the miners’ activities, environmental degradation due to use of mercury and scattered pits dug by the miners.
About the evictions
The president said he did not order the evictions from the mines but only told the forces to be on standby. He condemned the manner in which the operation was done having given the miners no time to take out their property. He however said compensation in this case would be a complex matter.
Incensed miners who lost property argued that the president should have first gotten the facts on ground before taking action. They argue that they had a register for all those operating in the mines and we’re working towards organising themselves following repeated advice from the responsible authorities.