In the aftermath of the ruthless eviction of Artisanal and Small-scale Miners (ASMs) from the gold mines in Mubende District on August 3, 2017, President Museveni said he had not given the directive but rather had only told the soldiers and other security agencies to be on standby. Victims of that unforgettable day recount how security personnel had told them that the deployment was to support the process of registering the miners. “However, when I awoke that morning I looked around the mines and it looked like a scene from a war movie. Tanks had been stationed on hill tops facing us. That day I thought there was war,” recounted Emmanuel Kibirige, an artisanal gold miner who has been involved in the trade for the last about 12 years. That and many more stories of pandemonium have severally been told by thousands of victims who were given a two-hour ultimatum by the operations Commander of the day to vacate the mines. In the ensuing chaos, property and cash worth billions of shillings were lost in a very short time. Mubende vis a vis Other gold mining areas of Uganda Artisanal gold mining in Uganda takes place majorly in areas of Mubende, Busia, Namayingo, Buhweju, Karamoja and Bugiri. Whereas the 2006 geophysical aerial survey was not carried out in Karamoja owing to insecurity, gold mining is mainly attributed to speculators. As such gold rushes are common in the sub-region as miners shift from place to place and, according to the Acting District Natural Resources Officer of Nakapiripirit, some mining companies that operate are not known whether they possess licenses or not. Elsewhere, artisanal miners and big players such as mining companies have secured licenses to operate hence a semblance of order albeit a few cases of displacement and poor compensation of locals. In Busia for example, where the gold mining trade, that dates back to the 1930s, has run in families across generations, there are about 456 location licenses held by artisanal miners who are mostly natives. Vincent Kedi, the Principal Mining Engineer at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) noted that ASMs in Busia are more organized which helps to facilitate the process faster. “Whereas we have sensitized miners across the country about existing mining procedures, people in Busia are the only ones that have taken heed. The moment they discover an area with gold they immediately embark on processing a location license,” he said. In comparison however, Mubende is challenging. Over 90% of the people that operated in the mines were not natives which explained the population of more than 50,000 people. These included foreigners from neighbouring countries mainly DR Congo, Rwanda, Tanzania, Kenya and Burundi. Interestingly, artisanal gold mining in Mubende dates as far back as the 1980s, according the Kitumbi Sub-county Community Development Officer, Edward Ssenkusu, also a born of the area. “Around 1989, I always heard my father one Ssemanda Edward say that he was going to the mines at Kamalange and on several occasions, while visiting my aunt Nankusu, I passed Kamalange wetland and saw men carrying sacks of sand which contained the gold deposits,” Senkusu says. However, Gertrude Njuba, a bush war heroine, claims she first acquired this gold mining area of Mubende in 1986, “without the slightest hint of what lay underneath,” according to reference of an interview by the Daily Monitor. Her company first acquired a location license for the area measuring about 207 square kilometers in 1987, and subsequently a mining lease for the area in 1994. Battle of licenses During a handover ceremony of safety gears to members of Singo Artisanal & Small Scale Miners Association (SASSMA) miners by ActionAid Uganda in 2016, the spokesperson then John Bosco Bukya said they had applied for location licenses in 2013 but were yet to get a response. However, records at the DGSM indicate that the area for which the miners had applied, having already been working there without a license, was licensed to AUC Mining (U) Limited on 20th February 2013, having applied on 22nd October, 2012. The area measures 144.7824 square kilometers. The miners however argued that the original company, Gemstone International, originally had an exploration license for the area, whose duration was three years, of which upon expiration the company was expected to relinquish 50% of the area. Effectively, the company had not done any exploration because the miners occupied the area. In a dossier by AUC Mining U) Limited presented to the President making their case as the rightful licensed party for the disputed area, they indicated that the miners had interfered with their work where they had marked sample sites from which they extracted data. “The miners actually started invading the area after discovering the company had discovered samples of gold. The local people that were employed during these geophysical studies spread the word and people started flocking the area,” Kedi said. Anthony Kinene, the Natural Resources Officer of Mubende and borne of the area, says the first official report of artisanal gold miners in Mubende was in 2012 when the numbers became astronomical. According to the dossier, the company had spent close to 57 billion shillings on geological activities and paid at least 100 million shillings in taxes. Politics, security concerns In the aftermath of the evictions, miners said the President had betrayed them and he occasionally made verbal pledges that Mubende miners were safe and would continue to work without interference. John Bosco Bukya said that during the President’s state of the nation address of 2016, he had given them assurance that they were safe and would continue working. Following the evictions, the desperate miners said the president had all along been using them as political capital. Word of impending evictions came in early 2017 when there was a reported directive from the President for the miners to vacate the mines. On two occasions, the area Members of Parliament including Hon. Betty Namugwanya and Hon. Patrick Nsamba coordinated meetings to have the president visit the area and speak to miners but to no avail. Legally however; the miners save for those belonging to Kayonza-Kitumbi Miners Association who were already licensed, were not supposed to be occupying the mines. The then Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Dr. Stephen Isabalijja claimed during a stormy session before the committee on natural resources in parliament that the miners posed a security threat and government had to act fast. Claims of wrong elements posing as miners had been rife. Indeed among the over 70 people arrested during the evictions that were seen by a legal team assembled by ActionAid Uganda, nearly all were found to be foreign nationals from neighbouring countries. Making a come back The evictions sparked outrage countrywide but unsurprisingly the President would give the miners an ear. The first attempt to meet him during an address on radio in Mubende flopped when he promised them a meeting at a more appropriate time. Indeed on September 26th 2017, the meeting happened at State House, Nakasero where security officials led by then Inspector General of Police, Gen. Kale Kayihura; energy ministry officials and miners’ representatives convened at what turned out to be a heated affair between the miners and representatives of AUC Mining Company. The company representatives were unrelenting and would not back down even when the President asked Moses Masagazi, a partner in AUC Mining company, to relinquish part of the area to the miners. It is reported that during the meeting, the company representatives claimed that they had to be compensated with Shs 2 billion for a 10 square kilometer area in Madudu Sub-county that had been proposed for relocation of the miners. As the technocrat on ground, Anthony Kinene disputed the claim, adducing proof that the proposed area was never part of that license. Following protracted negotiations, the President directed Hon. Irene Muloni, the Energy Minister that AUC Mining relinquishes 30% of their area to the miners. There was however a hitch, when it turned out that the letter was addressed to an unknown group of miners posing as the Federation of Artisanal Miners of Uganda. On investigation it was discovered the federation was in fact headed by the late Stella Njuba, daughter to Gertrude Njuba. Fresh Fight The miners, under their umbrella association, Mubende United Miners Association (MUMA) which brings together 21 associations had to put up a fresh fight, which however culminated into fresh negotiations and later concessions to share just 10% of the 30% because by now they were running low in energy and desperate to return to work. Gradually the miners started to make a breakthrough, with their major milestone being a meeting with the Operation Wealth Creation boss, and the president’s young brother Gen. Salim Saleh at Serene Hotel in Mutundwe. According to Bukya John Bosco, the meeting was very cordial and Gen. Saleh pledged that the miners would soon resume work. “We are now in advanced stages of receiving location licenses as members of MUMA; everything is in order now after we came to an understanding with the Federation,” the MUMA Chairperson Bukya John Bosco said. The negotiations through different power holders paid off as the miners were eventually granted permission to return to Kasanda district mining gold areas, specically in Katugo, Kitoma, and Nfuka all located in Kitumbi sub-county. They have secured 15 location licenses and expect about 15 more, which puts them in a safe position to resume mining legally. By Robert Mwesigye Edited by Flavia Nalubega Edited By Didas Muhumuza
The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development will biometrically register Uganda’s artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM). This will be in line with a new mineral policy, it says, through its Financial Year 2018/19 policy statement.
This was revealed and launched by the Ministry in mid July 2018. The State minister for Minerals, Mr Peter Lokeris, said the registration is to establish who is involved in artisanal and small-scale mining.
“You know all minerals belong to the government. But there are some people who know how to spot minerals and start mining illegally,” Mr Lokeris said.
He added: “This [biometric registration] is meant to streamline [artisanal and small-scale mining] so that we know who is where.” Mr Lokeris said if the government is not in the know who is involved in artisanal and small-scale mining, some of the ASMs could cross borders; mine or sell the illegally mined minerals and conflict.
Kick off He said the registration is expected to start later this third quarter- in September, although he could not there and then say how much has been budgeted for the exercise. But according to a House Budget Committee May 2018 report, biometric registration of the ASMs will cost $350,000 (about Shs1.3b). Mr Lokeris said the ministry is targeting 1,200 ASMs for a start but would register more and more with time.
Mr George Onega, a small-scale miner in Busia District, Eastern Uganda, said although he had not been aware of government’s plans to biometrically register ASMs, he welcomes it. “I support it, 100 per cent. It is very good because if a miner is operating without being known to the government, it will be hard for the government to get royalties,” Mr Onega said.
Nelson Wesonga, Daily Monitor
The maiden Conference of Parties to the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place in Geneva on September 24-29. The Convention is an international legal instrument or Treaty designed to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds. The Convention currently has been signed by 128 countries and ratified by 83 so far.
The Minamata Convention requires the phase out of many products containing mercury, implements restrictions on trade and supply of mercury and establishes a framework to reduce or eliminate emissions and releases of mercury from industrial processes and mining.
Mercury is widely used by artisanal and small scale gold miners, Uganda inclusive. According to the UN, the practice of mercury amalgamation in Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is of particular concern due to the “decentralised distribution of elemental mercury utilized and its widespread handling, thermal conversion and disposal within social settings such as shops, villages, and food production areas.”
The sad bit in Uganda is that because of the state of ASGM, unregulated and illegal, miners have no idea of the dangers of mercury. At high levels, mercury can harm the brain, heart, kidneys, lungs, and immune system of people of all ages. According to studies, high levels of methyl mercury in the bloodstream of unborn babies and young children may harm the developing nervous system, making the child less able to think and learn and potentially reducing their IQ.
During a working visit in Namayingo a miner brazenly said he had handled mercury for over ten years but “nothing was wrong with him and he had never developed any problems.”
Asked how they accessed mercury, a miner in Nsango B village, Budde Sub County in Bugiri district once told a team from Oil in Uganda that they ‘had suppliers’ but was not willing to elucidate. Mercury however is largely smuggled from Tanzania and easily accessible by the miners at just between Sh800 and Sh1000 a gram meaning it is easily accessible.
Mr Erienyu Johnson, the Busia District natural resources officer, displaying a bottle of dirty brown-coloured water, noted how he had fetched a sample from R. Okame in Busitema where miners used mercy nearby. He said locals had complained that the water had been contaminated by the miners.
He said a nongovernmental organisation, Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD), ventured into the district to ‘build artisanal miners’ capacity and promote safe mining without using mercury..
Mr Erienyu said though the district leadership is in the process of working out something to manage the use of mercury by artisanal gold miners there are currently no measures in place.
“We currently have a draft ordinance that is to be presented at the next council seating,” he told Oil in Uganda.
National Task Force
At the national level, Uganda, through National Environmental Management Authority, has a task force – Strategic Approach to International Chemicals Management (SAICHEM) – which is the national focal point for the management of use of mercury.
Mr Paul Twebaze, an environmentalist working with Pro-Biodiversity Conservation Uganda (PROBICOU), says the civil society organisation is the national focal point NGO for SAICHEM in Uganda.
Twebaze says PROBICOU is also a member of the National Steering Committee of the Stockholm Convention against Persistent Organic Pollutants (global treaty ratified by the international community lead by UNEP – calls for the elimination and/or phasing out of 12 POPs) in Uganda, activities all coordinated by NEMA.
“We have been a lead NGO doing work on mercury and of course working towards ratification of the Minamata Convention working with the Government of Uganda to speed up the processes of the ratification of the Minamata Convention.
“We got involved in the negotiation processes and are currently working with government on enabling activities,” Twebaze says.
“We are working with the health sector to discourage the use of dental amalgam which contains mercury. Additionally we are also trying to promote the use of mercury-free electronic appliances,” Twebaze says of their manadate.
He says they are also working with all stakeholders in the mining industry to minimize and eventually phase out the use of mercury especially by the artisanal and small scale miners.
Paul says Uganda is being supported by the Secretariat of the Minamata Convention to speed up the process of ratification.
“After Uganda has fully understood and appreciated the situation I am confident it will ratify the Convention,” he says.
MPs ask government to establish an independent body tasked with regulating the Mining sector
Members of Parliament want government to establish an independent body – Minerals Authority to regulate the mining sector. The MPs argue that it will be able to check the immense discretionary powers the Mining Act, 2003 vest in the Commissioner [now director] at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM).
Hon. Samson Lokeris, Dodoth East MP, says just as government established an independent Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) to regulate the petroleum sector, the same should be done for the mining sector.
“We should establish something like the mineral authority it can regulate and provide oversight supervision,” Mr Lokeris said and further explained,
“I think there is need to reduce the powers of the Commissioner. If we can regulate that, it will be very important. We need the involvement of the players including communities and local governments,” he said.
Hon Robert Ntende, Bunya South MP, in Mayuge district also backed Mr Lokeris on the establishment of a Minerals Authority. “We need to make sure that the powers vested in the commissioner are trimmed and shared in other institutions – the Minerals Authority,” Ntende said.
The Commissioner is currently allowed to make a number of critical decisions, particularly related to the granting, renewing and revoking of rights without consulting anybody or committee. This means that the Commissioner has direct and unfettered discretionary control over the sector. This discretion must be checked by introducing an independent oversight body such as a “Minerals Authority” tasked with reviewing bids, approving applications and recommending
The MPs made the recommendations during a Mining Legislation Review meeting by ActionAid Uganda, between MPs on the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament and Civil Society Organizations in Kampala on Thursday 18, May, 2017. The meeting aimed at sensitizing MPs to be able to shape the forthcoming amendment of the Mining Act, 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Mr Bashir Twesigye, the executive director, Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED) said many jurisdictions are moving away from concentrating powers in one person or body. He gave the example of Zambia, where government established Mining Licensing Committee to check on the abuse of powers and provide additional scrutiny and Ghana, where a Minerals Commission, was established to that handles licensing and other oversight functions of the mining sector.
The CSOs recommend that the Minerals Authority should be charged with review and approval of applications for license and forward them to the Minister for licensing based on a prescribed procedure for the evaluation of bid information.
The MPs also backed a proposal from civil society organizations for the establishment of the Minerals Fund and a Minerals Investment Reserve in Bank of Uganda to hold all revenues generated from the mining sector. “There is a lot of money from the minerals but we don’t know where it goes. Who monitors whether royalties have been paid or not,” Lokeris wondered.
Mr Isaac Kabongo, Executive Director, Ecological Christian Organization implored government to also consider regulating low value minerals in the forthcoming amendments.
“Uganda’s policies and laws tend to focus mainly on high value minerals and silent on neglected minerals [law value minerals]. Minerals like sand, murrum, clay are always neglected,” he said. However, Uganda’s Constitution excludes sand, clay, stones normally used for building from minerals save if exploited for commercial purposes.
“Without looking for revenues from all sectors, it will always be a challenge to meet our budget. We need to be smart and make sure that every fee is collected. Do the companies pay the taxes they are supposed to pay?” Mr Kabongo said.
Kabongo says in the forthcoming amendments to the Mining Act 2003, there should be a provision for mining companies to first secure a social license to operate from the communities.
“Sometimes, these companies come with their licenses from Entebbe, without any courtesy to introduce themselves to district, sub county or community leaders, go with their equipments and begin mining which is causing a lot of conflict with the local people,” he said. He said in some areas like Karamoja, host communities are being compelled to live on marginal lands and they are left with no option by to become landless.
CSOs also want government to regulate and formalize artisanal and small scale miners and secure their livelihoods and also the establishment of a quasi-judicial body – tribunal to handle disputes in the mining sector. “We think dispute should be handled by an independent tribunal, which should be established by the amended Act,” Mr Bashir Twesigye said.
The Civil Society Organisations will be pushing for inclusivness as they present their agenda to Members of Parliament in the ongoing legislation review process of the Mining Act 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Stakeholders of the Civil Society Organisation will be meeting Members of Parliament drawn from the Natural Resources Committee and Parliamentary Forum on Oil and Gas (PFOG) in a working dialogue tomorrow on Thursday 18, May 2017 praying to have their views taken into consideration in the ongoing legislative review process of the Mining Act 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Ms. Flavia Nalubega, the project officer of the Extractives Governance Project at Actionaid Uganda, says it will be an opportunity for civil society to “voice their expectations on the law under review and also have an input in the matter.
“Now is the time to rally support before the matter is presented on the floor of parliament,” Ms. Nalubega said.
The workshop follows a consultative meeting with Members of Parliament on the Natural Resources Committee under the leadership of Hon. Mukitale Steven that was held in March this year regarding the review of the Mining Act.
According to the Mining and Mineral Policy Draft 2016, government recognizes the input of artisanal miners to the socio-economic development of the country bearing in mind that artisanal mining is a source of livelihood for thousands of Ugandans.
In this regard government plans to organize and formalize artisanal miners and gazette them to operate in areas that are not under commercial exploration.
Ms Winfred Ngabirwe, Global Rights Alert Executive Director, says they hope to build consensus with the legislators to ensure a well regulated sector and a better Uganda.
“We have the National Development Plan and Vision 2040 and we need MPs to know where we are coming from. Without good legislation we are leaving out a very big section of Ugandans where we’ll continue to see under development and exploitation, “ She said and added,
“The challenge is not about the leadership, the State or who is in power; there’s no one against the other but rather we strive for inclusive development in the sector,” Ms Ngabiirwe said.
Stakeholders can join the interaction on Twitter under the hastag #mininglegislation that will be relayed by @OilInUg.
Report by Robert Mwesigye
Members of Parliament and human rights activists have asked government to enforce the laws in the mining sector to protect the right of women in the sector. The MPs and other stakeholders said women in the minerals sector face a lot of challenges, which need to be addressed.
The call was made during the National Dialogue on Land and Extractives, under the theme, “Harnessing citizen participation for good governance and sustainable livelihoods,” at Hotel Africana on Wednesday, April 26, 2017. The conference was attended by government officials, artisanal miners, district leaders, cultural leaders and civil society representatives among others.
Nivatiti Nandujja, Human Rights Coordinator at Action Aid Uganda (AAU), said the extractives sector is male dominated and women participation is wanting. She explained that the few women employed in mines are working under inhuman and poor working conditions with meager pay.
“Women working in mines do not enjoy the entitlement provided for by the law. They don’t get maternity leave or sick leave, but instead, when they get pregnant, they are simply laid off,” Nandujja said. She said despite the good policies and laws on gender based violence, the position of women has not improved and advocated for other interventions in addition to enforcement of policies and laws in order to ensure gender equity in extractives sector.
Catherine Nyakecho, a Geologist working with Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development disagreed with MsNandujja that the minerals sector is male dominated. She quoted a research by African Center for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) that revealed that of the sites visited, women are more into stone quarrying, salt mining, marble, limestone, and sand mining – the low value minerals, while the men are where the money is.
However, she said women in mines have been exposed to more poor working conditions than men. For instance in stone quarrying, she said women and children are engaged in crashing stones with their bare hands, which exposes them to accidents and a lot of dust, which affect their lives.
Despite spending a whole day crashing stones, women get meager pay. “Stone quarries lack toilets and therefore women during menstruation periods have to travel back home for health break – wasting a lot of their valuable time and when they fall sick, they get no payment,” she said.
Nyakacho explained that in salt mining, men wear condoms to prevent salty water from entering their bodies through their private parts, but in contrast, though women need protective gears too, they are normally not provided for, and thus enter salty water without protective gears, which has negative consequences on their health.
In gold mining, women are exposed to dangerous chemicals like mercury. Whereas the men get the ore or gold sand out of the ground, Nyakecho said women are exposed to mercury during panning for gold which affect their lives. Weighing in on mercury, one of the participants from Amudat district said there is a worrying trend that feet/legs of women working in goldmines are swelling, due to what she suspects could be prolonged exposure to mercury.
Deborah Ariong, the Natural Resources Officer, Amudat district, said she had witnessed breast-feeding mothers panning gold with mercury and then breast-feed babies thereafter. She called for strict enforcement of health and safety measures in mines like ensuring all workers wear protective gears.
Betty Atiang, programme Manager at Saferworld Uganda, told the extractives sector in Uganda is expanding, and as it expands, it is worsening existing tension and exposing new conflicts. The sector, she explained, is faced with land conflicts in form of land grabbing, contention over surface rights, conflicts that relate to allocation of royalties, environmental degradation and gender based violence among others. She observed that conflict is an impediment to good governance and implored participants to make a contribution towards promoting conflict free extractives sector, transparency, accountability, citizen’s participation in decision making.
Drawing from his experience as an artisanal miner in Mubende district, Emmanuel Kibirig said women of today can do mining, though by their nature they can’t go inside the pit. Therefore, in the pit, miners don’t employ women. He explained that in gold mining, the value chain is that men dig and go inside the pit in order to extract gold ores/sand on the ground for women to their work in the value chain.
Mukitale Mukitale, the MP Buliisa, said women artisanal miners need to form strong cooperatives or associations, through which they can demand for more protection and seek help. Weighing on the discussion, Adong Lilly, Woman MP Nwoya district, told in order to protect women rights, there is need to amend the laws and policies governing the minerals sector to cap a percentage of jobs and contracts to be given exclusively to women. This will ensure that women in the sector are empowered.
By Edward Ssekika
CSOs have organised a dialogue slated for Wednesday the 26th April 2017
Four of Uganda’s Civil Society Organizations (CSOs) are hosting an annual multi-stakeholder national dialogue under the theme; Land and Extractives – harnessing citizen participation for good governance and sustainable livelihoods.
The meeting that is expected to attract more than 100 participants is aimed at ensuring that stakeholders at the grassroots interact with the leaders at both local and central government to ensure transparency and good governance of the oil, gas and mineral sector.
The convention, organized by Action Aid Uganda (AAU), Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED), Saferworld Uganda and Transparency International Uganda (TIU), will be held at Hotel Africana on Wednesday the 26th of April, and among the invitees are delegates from Parliament, the private sector, industry players, government agencies, local government leaders, community leaders, community representatives and relevant CSOs.
The meeting arose out of findings by civil society regarding the increasing unplanned and untimely displacements and land disputes in the oil rich and mining areas, which inhumane activities affect people, particularly the less privileged, including women and children.
Instead of remedying this pattern, the government has instead recently decided to worsen the problem by proposing an amendment to Article 26 of the Constitution with the effect of allowing government to acquire land before effecting compensation to the project-affected person.
Elaborating on the expected outcomes from the meeting, Mr. Ivan Mpagi, the Extractives Governance Project Manager at ActionAid Uganda, explains that the meeting is meant to create a platform for discussing the challenges in the extractive sector by engaging policy makers on what needs to be done in order to address these challenges.
“We want to bring the oil companies together to tell Ugandans how far they are in the actual extraction of oil,” Mr. Mpagi says. “The extraction will generate employment, and it will generate revenues as well, and we as civil society want to monitor this development and hold these actors accountable.”
He further expresses hope of more transparency concerning the government’s exploration agreements with the oil companies (Tullow, CNOCC and Total), as he finds the government to have been “very secretive” until now. “Through the dialogue we hope that Ugandans can be told about the agreements made with these companies.”
By Preben A. Martensen-Larsen
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.
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