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Mubende artisan miners faced with eviction

Miners searching for gold from the dust collected from a gold pit in Kasanda-Mubende

Miners searching for gold from the dust collected from a gold pit in Kasanda-Mubende

District leadership wants the president to intervene

Over 60,000 artisan and small scale gold miners in Mubende are leaving under fear following a recent alleged presidential directive to evict them from the area.

The miners were given a seven days ultimatum starting 16th June 2017 to vacate the premises in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties, in the mining camps of Kampala, Kikade, Kamusenene and  Kapya, in favour of the license holder Gemstone International. This company has a mining lease of 21 years and Exploration license for three years for this same area that houses the artisan miners. The miners have tried to access a location license from Ministry of Energy for this same area since 2015 but with no success.

According to the member of Parliament of Bukuya sub county, Hon Bukenya Micheal, the directive was arrived at after a meeting  held at State House with the  Minister of State for Minerals, Defence Minister among others agreed that the artisan miners are a security threat to the country,  claiming that majority are from DRC and other neighbouring countries, hence ferrying out Uganda’s gold to other countries illegally.

Dr. Bukenya claims that the people who made decisions in state house for miners to vacate the premises within five days have little or no knowledge of the operations in these gold mining camps, hence unaware of how many people shall be affected by this move.

“They have never stepped in this constituency; they don’t know what takes place in the gold mines. Neither the local council leadership, district leadership, the sub county leadership, parliamentary representation was involved in the discussion that took place in state house which we think  was done by design because they didn’t want the president to know the truth. So we think everything wasn’t done the right way and we want to be given audience such that we will be involved in the issues concerning our area,” he said.

Dr.Bukenya  explained that the meeting also allegedly agreed that  the  people in the mines are not registered hence government doesn’t know the amount of gold getting out from this area neither does it know the people operating in this area. There were also claims of environmental degradation thus the need to evict them from this area.

Residents live in fear

Mr Nkwatirire Ismail, The Chairperson LC III Luginji gold mining area explained that what is needed is not ridicule but support from government to uphold them as Ugandans who have tried to find a livening in gold mining and  have created employment for many

“We are Ugandans who have managed to create employment for ourselves. All we need is government to come up with regulations on how best we can improve our jobs not evicting us because we have nowhere to go,” he said.

 

Hon Micheal Bukenya of Bukuya Sub county with some of the artisan gold miners in Mubende gold camps

Hon Micheal Bukenya of Bukuya Sub county with some of the artisan gold miners in Mubende gold camps

Miners confirmed that this is a source of livelihood for many. Mr Mulyazaawo Umaru one of the gold miners explained that;” All my life rotates now around the gold mine, I cannot afford to lose all the millions invested in digging up the tunnel in search for gold. I would rather fight and I don’t care whether I lose my life in the battle.”

Another resident Mr Mutabaazi Jonathan said Government ought to put it’s citizens first.  “Why care for the interests and needs of a single individual an investor and  rendering 60,000 people homeless and jobless. Government should put her citizens interests first,” he told this publication.

Mubende. for about five years now, illegal gold miners from various parts of Uganda have occupied two hills of about 44 acres in Kitumbi and Bukuya Sub-counties, Mubende District.

Estimates indicate the number of the miners – known as artisanal miners – could be as high as 10,000 in Lujinji A and B villages, in Kitumbi Sub-county alone but over 50,000 people are indirectly benefiting from the exercise as they are engaged in sale of merchandise like food stuffs, bars, entertainment industry, transport industry, agriculture and other related activities.

Mr Emmanuel Kibirige, the general secretary Ssingo Artisanal Gold Miners Association (SASSMA) said the association applied for the location licence on behalf of other miners but were not granted.

A location licence, according to The Mining Act, 2003 section 54 (2), is a licence for prospecting and mining operations by methods which do not involve substantial expenditure and the use of specialised technology.

This is mostly meant for small-scale miners who do not have the capacity to afford high-tech equipment for mining.

By Josephine Nabaale

Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org