The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is seeking public comments on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the Tilenga oil project.
The name Tilenga is derived from two local names for the Uganda Kob (Antelope) which is called “Til” in Acholi and “Engabi” in Runyoro-Rotoro.
A notice which has been pinned on public notice boards in Buliisa district indicates that NEMA received the ESIA from Total E&P Uganda and Tullow Uganda operations Pty Ltd for the proposed Tilenga project.
Under the Tilenga project, the Government through its licensed oil companies has discovered commercially viable oil deposits north of Victoria Nile in Murchison falls national park and south of Victoria Nile in Buliisa district.
The project includes jobi-Rii, Gunya, Ngiri, Kasemene, wahrindi, Nsoga, Kigogole oil fields. Composition According to the project documents which oil in Uganda has seen, the Tilenga project is composed of well pads, a central processing facility and other associated facilities, production and injection network of pipelines and cables, Bugungu airstrip, Tangi operation camp, a water abstraction system, victoria Nile crossing, river Nile pipe crossing and some roads.
The project also includes temporary construction camps, construction support base, a logistical check point in Masindi and borrow pits.
“The public is further notified that the outcomes of the public review will contribute towards making a final decision of the project in accordance with the Environment impact assessment regulations” a notice released by the NEMA Executive Director Tom Okurut reads in part.
According to the notice, members of the public have been asked to submit their comments by November 9th 2018. CSO Petition NEMA 13 civil society organisations have asked NEMA to hold public hearings to enable locals have an input in the studies.
“It is through public hearings that oil host and affected communities, the poor, marginalised and illiterate will be able to make comments on the ESIA to enable NEMA make a decision based on the collective input of all concerned stakeholders” the CSOs said in a joint letter to the NEMA executive Director.
According to the CSOs which are working to prevent the impacts of oil on biodiversity from Buliisa, Hoima, Kasese, Greater Masaka, South Western Uganda and Kampala, they are concerned that in the notice, NEMA did not indicate that it will call for public hearings before making any decision on the ESIA.
The concerns of the CSOs are contained in a letter dated October 17, 2018 which was submitted to NEMA by the AFIEGO Chief Executive Director on behalf of the CSOs.
The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations of 1998 mandates NEMA to call for a public hearing where there is controversy or where a project has trans boundary impacts, the CSOs argued.
“The Tilenga oil project is controversial and will have trans boundary impacts. The project’s activities will include drawing of water from Lake Albert, whose boundaries remain a challenge between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It should be noted that even the existence of many agreements including the Uganda Zaire 1990 Agreement, the 2007 Uganda-DRC Ngurdoto Agreement and others whose main objective was to address the peace and security challenges in the Uganda-DRC border areas through among other things providing for a framework for benefit sharing and conservation of shared resources such as the Lake Albert waters, fish and others have failed to achieve lasting results” Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive officer of the Africa institute for Energy Governance(AFIEGO) said.
The CSOs warned that if the Tilenga project is not well handled, it may worsen the conflicts and loss of lives as well as environmental destruction in Uganda and the DRC.
“We need public hearings to ensure effective public consultations that can build consensus not only among Ugandan stakeholders but also stakeholders across the borders who are likely to be affected by the Tilenga project” said Kamugisha, a lawyer.
The CSO stated that available evidence indicates that NEMA has the skills and interest to do a good job but it cannot effectively play its role amidst weak and outdated laws.
It is unfortunate that for over four years, government and parliament have failed or ignored the need to complete the enactment and formulation of the new environmental laws such as the National Environment Bill of 2017, the draft EIA and Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) regulations of 2017, the Uganda Wildlife Bill and others. Without such relevant laws to improve NEMA’s independence, funding and penalties for environmental offenders, NEMA can hardly operate rightfully.
‘It is especially unfortunate that todate, as government and oil companies are finalising major oil decisions that will have long lasting environmental and social impacts, there is no specific provision in our current laws including the 1995 National Environment Act, the Uganda Wildlife Act and others that specifically provides for NEMA to reject oil activities even in the most critical biodiversity areas such as Lake Albert, River Nile, Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls National Park, and others of national and international importance,” the petition which was received and stamped by NEMA on 18th October reads in part. Demands
“NEMA should use its powers not to issue any certificate of approval for oil projects as a condition to force parliament and government to complete the new environmental laws and regulations” the petition stated.
The CSOs have asked government to establish a multi-stakeholder committee comprised of actors from government, the private sector, religious and cultural groups, CSOs, the academia and others to act as an independent multidisciplinary oversight body to promote compliance with environmental conservation tools such as EIA, SEA, ESIA.
The CSOs have further asked NEMA to delay any decision to issue a certificate of approval for the Tilenga ESIA until the new environmental laws and regulations are put in place by government and parliament. This will help the country to stop engaging in oil activities based on a weak and outdated environmental legal framework, the petition added.
By Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro
It is a year now since that unforgettable day, when artisanal miners, deep in the hills of Kitumbi sub-county, Mubende district, were evicted by a combine force of soldiers and police from the gold mines following a mere two-hour ultimatum to vacate immediately.
Property worth billions of shillings, including equipment and cash were lost in the pandemonium as the miners were destined hapless situations. To-date, many of the nearly 60,000 affected people have not fully recovered. While some have moved to the nearby districts of Mubende, Mityana and Kibaale, or returned to the city to etch a living, many are still stuck deep in the villages of Bukuya Sub-County or Kassanda, either awaiting news of their fate as regards returning to the mines or forging a new life.
In March this year, a team from ActionnAid Uganda-in the Extractives Governance Project met Kicucula village miners in their hundreds who had sought refuge there. They had walked 19 kilometers from the mines in Kitumbi in the hope of working at Kisita gold mines. Unfortunately, the area is not accessible as there is an already licensed mining company.
They told sad stories of how they were hopeless and desperate. They had nowhere to begin and many said they could not return home to nothing, with nothing.
Prior to the evictions however, many of the miners had joined or formed associations following incessant advice from different stakeholders that it was the only way they had a chance of being recognized and respected by the powers that be as well as having the hope of returning to the mines and work in an organized manner.
As the miners came to terms with what had befallen them, they started convening meetings with the coordination and support of ActionAid Uganda (among other stakeholders). At these meetings, miners recounted the horrors of that day, they told stories of anguish and poverty as they sought answers from their local leaders. They also served as times for reflection and appreciating their situation. At one such meeting in Mityana town they turned hostile towards the Ag. Director of Geological Survey and Mines, Mr. Zackary Baguma whom they accused of malignity. However, they were only calmed by the State Minister for Mineral Development, Hon. Peter Lokeris, who promised to deliver their pleas to the head of state.
In the face of desperation, anguish, uncertainty and what appears to be well orchestrated power play by certain individuals to kick the miners out, however, a steadfast leadership of patiently determined representatives for the aggrieved miners that is relentlessly engaging the powers that, be has emerged.
Mr. John Bosco Bukyanagandi, a spokesperson for the Ssingo Artisanal and Small Scale Miners’ Association (SSASMA) and Mr. Emmanuel Kibirige, the secretary of the same association have been in and out of power corridors and engaged whichever power player to advance the miners’ concerns. Currently they have enlisted a consultant to offer counsel on their course of action.
SSASMA is one of the twenty-one registered associations under an umbrella social movement, the Mubende United Miners Association (MUMA) whose Chairperson is Bukyanagandi. Under MUMA, the miners’ representatives met the president in a grueling meeting to reach a middle ground for the miners to return to work. The area where the miners were evicted from is licensed to AUC mining Company Limited.
Mr. Ivan Kawuma, a miner who attended the meeting said of AUC’s Moses Masagazi: “We have negotiated with the man but he’s not easy. Even his business partner Ms. Gertrude Njuba tried to convince him to let us work and they buy the gold he refused. He also flatly said no to the president.”
Following hard line negotiations in which the proprietors of AUC Mining Company seemed unfettered even in front of the president, the latter eventually prevailed and directed the company to relinquish 30% of their area to the miners. This moreover was after the miners successfully protested an offer of unexplored 10 square kilometers allocated to them in Kabweyakiza village, Madudu Sub County. They argued that the area had no gold and that it was a ploy to subdue them and condemn them to poverty.
It is months since the president made that directive upon which the directorate of geological survey and mines is supposed to process location licenses in Kitumbi for the ASMs. However, the miners’ patience is being stretched with blame being seesawed between DGSM and ministry officials, power brokers, AUC Mining Company officials and a rival miners’ associations.
When the president directed that AUC Mining Company relinquishes the 30%, the letter was shockingly recognizing Federation of Artisanal Miners’ Associations of Uganda instead of MUMA. Shockingly among the 13-member Federation executives some prominent members also applied for location licenses for three registered associations under MUMA. The miners are gutted and distraught.
“When we went to the registrar of companies to find out who was behind it we were shocked to find names of people we were relying on to fight for our cause,” said Kibirige in disbelief.
MUMA executives protested and complained to the president and ministry officials that they were not the Federation which was being seen as trying to hijack their opportunity. Unable to do much about it the miners “grudgingly accepted to divide the 30% in half,” according to Bukyanagandi.
About the Federation
In between attending several meetings with AUC Mining Company officials, the Federation and ministry officials on how to proceed in light of the new arrangement (a site visit is to be conducted in the mines to agree on where the proprietor will relinquish) leading to further delays.I It also emerged that there are some heavy weights in government behind the Federation.
None the less, the unwavering MUMA executives managed to secure audience with the the head of Operation Wealth Creation (General Salim Saleh) on August 20, 2018. At a meeting held at Serene Hotel, Mutundwe that the miners described as very promising, General Saleh is reported to have said: “Yes I know those people of the federation but I sent them to do some organisation.”
Speaking about the meeting, Bukyanagandi said: “Now that we are talking to the right people there is hope.”
General Salim Saleh is reported to have told the MUMA representatives that he had their interests at heart and his clear instructions to his people were that they cooperate with you in an organized manner because “you must go back to work.”
The MUMA executives expressed their frustrations to General Saleh and prominent among them was the somewhat clear sabotage by the federation outfit, which he also works with. But the General denied and promised to organize a meeting between “his people” and MUMA.
“I want you to hear from them what I instructed them to do. I want you to accuse them in front of me,” the cordial Saleh is reported to have said.
Meanwhile, the mines in Mubende are off limits and under the control of the Mineral Police Unit which was formed following the evictions. However reports are rife that there is illegal mining taking place under the cover of darkness.
A private broadcaster, NTV, carried out a well-executed investigation into the illegal mining reportedly being carried out by ‘connected people’ and those in security circles.
The camera crew managed to gain access to the mines under-cover as some of the few miners that work in the night after paying bribes to those in charge. The ore is reportedly extracted from the mines but processed somewhere else to thwart any suspicion.
The documentary clearly exposed the unbecoming situation unfolding in the mining areas and the mineral protection police were deeply angered by the production of the documentary.
Amidst all the tossing back and forth by concerned officials, the artisanal miners’ leadership has been unrelenting. Kibirige narrated how they went up to the Prime Minister’s office wielding a letter from the Justice and constitutional Affairs Minister advising that all government officials dealing with the miners’ issue would be personally held accountable for their actions if the presidents’ orders were not effected to the letter. The Prime Minister in turn wrote to the responsible office instructing that the matter be put to rest once and for all.
The South African case and lessons to learn
Late June this year, AAU hosted an exchange and learning workshop for mining stakeholders drawn from Uganda, South Africa, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Kenya, Malawi and DRC under the auspices of the Africa Extractives Working Group. The highlight of the workshop was a case study of the South African mining movements of MACUA and WAMUA. Activists from especially South Africa (including Sifiso Dladla, Meshack Mbangula and Lorraine Kakaze among others) took turns sharing their experiences of how the now formidable movements came into existence.
Their sole purpose is to rally mining affected communities against marginalization through unfair government policies and exploitation by multi-national corporations. Today a mining project cannot start in South Africa without comprehensive consultation process with the communities and well laid out MoUs. Immediately after the regional meeting, a specifically targeted sensitization, mobilization and training workshop was organized and held (with the support of AAU) in Busia for the ASMs from different areas including Busia, Namayingo, Karamoja and Central region. They were enabled to appreciate their potential and how the African Mining Vision can be of help to protect their rights and guarantee realization of durable benefits from the exploitation of natural resources.
MUMA has drawn lessons from the above processes and they are positioning themselves as advocates for miners’ rights. The group has also taken the mobilization and organization of ASMs beyond Mubende but to the national level by rallying their colleagues from other parts of Uganda (including Western, Eastern and Karamoja). They were thus able to organize and hold a national convention for ASMs in Uganda on 7th September 2018 at Hotel Africana (with the support of AAU). They draw from rich experience owing to what befell them a year ago and have severally been advised that without a common voice and better organization they will not get audience and durable recognition.
Bukyanaandi said of their struggles for inclusion and legalization: “We are making headway. Previously we were regarded illegal and disorganized; now government is inviting us to meetings and engaging us as ASMs. However the struggle continues since we are not yet back to work.”
Additional Reporting by Josephine Nnabbaale
Women in the mining sub sector world over and especially in Africa continue to face crosscutting challenges that have continually kept them playing the catch up game in equitable access to natural resources.
Because of its inclusivity, mining is one of those sectors that is hoped to uplift the local populace out of poverty. As such the African Union recognized Artisanal and Small scale mining(ASM) formalization as one of its six areas of engagement under its 2011 Africa Mining Vision.
A World Bank report 2013 puts the number of people involved in artisanal mining at 100million in 80 countries. In Africa the work force in ASM comprises up to 40% of this workforce.
Women working in this sub sector however bear the brunt of social and economic dynamics that play out especially in the mineral host communities.
M/s Beatrice Mjomba, an activist championing women’s rights, narrates how in the coal mines in Tieta, Kenya, several men can share a woman and even share a condom.
“As we moved through the camps we found a condom hanging on a roof to dry. The woman said whoever would come first would use the condom,” she said.
M/s Chipiwa Kifamba, another activist from Zimbabwe says in her country, men even use polyethylene bags used to pack cheap juices as condoms.
M/s Beatrice Aguttu, a gold miner from Busia narrates how the responsibility of family falls squarely on the shoulders of women.
“When women make their little money they have to look after the home. The men will make their money and go out looking for younger women to sleep with. They will even chase their women out of the mines claiming it’s men’s work.” Aguttu said.
In Rupa sub county, Moroto district, there was a recent gold rush in Loret Kalemureng village. This mining camp is tucked deep in a rocky area surrounded by shrubs and thickets. The women in this area narrate the challenges they face in mining. The women revealed that cases of rape are rife in the camp as men start drinking as early as midday. As such, cases of young single mothers are always on the rise with no interventions of any kind from authorities or other stakeholders.
The women were sharing experiences at a workshop that drew participants from Uganda, Kenya, DRC, Zambia, Zimbabwe and South Africa which was supported by Australian NGO Cooperation Program(ANCP). The workshop was geared towards modeling a People’s Mining Charter to capture the views of the people affected by mining activities to feed into Africa Mining Vision in a bottom-up approach.
Harriet Gimbo, Programmes Director ActionAid Uganda, while moderating the session, noted that men need to come on board and support the women’s cause in the pursuit for equitable access to these resources and champion for social justice.
“This has been going on for long. The men have got to appreciate that they have to champion the struggle for women to advocate for equitable access to these resources,” said Gimbo.
All is not gloomy however. The Tiira Artisanal and Small Scale Miners’ Association in Busia, whose members were in attendance, was started by women. Mr George Kwemboi, the chairperson of the association, narrates how people used to chide them when the association had just been formed.
“This association was originally a women’s SACCO. It was easier because they were already very organized. Now it is a full association with two mining licenses,” he proudly confirmed.
Artisanal miners who were evicted from the gold mines in Mubende district last year have vowed to demonstrate against the President of Uganda, H.E Yoweri Kaguta Museveni, if he insists on not allowing them to go back to gold mines from which they were evicted in August 2017. The artisanal miners expressed this during their meeting held at Mountain Pub Hotel in Mityana Municipality on 23rd/4/2018
This comes after the miners received a communication from the Woman Member of Parliament for Mubende District, Hon. Nalongo Benny Bugembe Namugwanya about a planned meeting between the President and the evicted miners slated for the 23rd/May/2018, which is yet to be confirmed.
According to the General Secretary of the Mubende United Miners Assembly, Mr. Kibirige Emmanuel, he mentioned that since the eviction nine months ago, the President has been promising them a dialogue to solve this issue of unfair evictions, without provision of an alternative working area, but he has never honored his promise.
“We have tried to contain ourselves for the last 9 months with hope that one day we will return and resume our work but we are running out of patience. In case we do not succeed this time with the forth-coming meeting with the President, we are ready to strip naked before him. May be that is when he will understand our grief,” he told this publication.
Mr Kibirige further explained that; ”we are no longer interested in the government’s strategy to provide us with machinery so that we can improve on our mining skills and our lives. All we need is to revive our survival because mining has been our source of livelihood for a long time.”
Mubende District Police Commander, Mr. Okoyo Martin has however advised these miners to handle the issue calmly by writing to the concerned offices for a solution instead of going rowdy, an act that may culminate into arrests.
Artisanal miners were evicted in August 2017 from several mining sites that included Lugongwe, “Kampala”, Lujinji A, Lujinji B, Kabadda, and Nfuka, all located in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties in Mubende District. Over 60,000 artisanal miners and service providers who were operating several businesses including buying of gold, restaurants and bars, wholesale shops, salons, medical clinics, mobile money agents, chapatti stalls, entertainment halls, lodges, mechanical workshops, boda-boda riders and taxis drivers among others were ordered to vacate the gold mines within a very short period of about two hours. This followed several warnings of possible eviction for quite some time and the miners were also chasing for location licenses which did not yield since the area they were targeting had already been licensed to another investor. The final stroke that broke the camel’s back was the presidential directive on eviction of all the illegal artisanal miners in Mubende district on grounds that they were not registered and unknown to government authorities. Their activities were thus classified as detrimental to the economy and the environment overall since their output was not taxed and regulated and their methods of work caused environmental damages.
However, the Permanent Secretary of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development then, Dr. Stephen. R. Sabalija in the letter dated 02nd/August/2017 explained that government was planning to put- in place intervention measures whereby all the local artisanal miners in all mining areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties would be registered so that they can be organized into groups that shall ultimately be well regulated. All his aspiration is yet to be realized and the Mining Act (2003) under review also has new provision for legalization of Artisanal and Small scale mining operations in Uganda.
Artisanal miners want to retain their former mining areas that are richly endowed with gold, yet government plans to relocate them to less viable ones.
On 22nd February 2018, a meeting of stakeholders was held at Enro hotel in Mityana to discuss gold mining issues in Mubende. The participants included the artisanal miners (who were evicted from Mubende); Woman Member of Parliament, Mubende also Minister for Kampala City Authority (Hon. Nalongo Benny Bugembe Namugwanya); Member of Parliament, Kasanda (Hon. Patrick Nsamba); Minister of State for Mineral Development (Hon. Peter Lokeris); Officials from the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (led by the Commissioner, Zachary Baguma); district officials of Mubende including the District L.C V Chairperson; the Vice Chairperson, Mubende; Resident District Commissioner; the District Internal Security Officer; and the District Natural Resources Officer among others.
The meeting was organized by the artisanal miners’ associations in Mubende with the support of the Woman Member of Parliament for Mubende district (Hon. Nalongo Benny Bugembe Namugwanya) and ActionAid Uganda. The meeting resulted from an earlier conversation held between the miners and the district leadership plus discussions held on a social media group (whatsapp platform) formed with the support of ActionAid Uganda, as a way of promoting use of social media to attain social justice in the extractive sector of Uganda.
Presentation by Miners
Following their own assessment and understanding of gold mining in Mubende, the miners pointed out that there was limited gold value in Madudu and Kalwana sub-counties in Mubende district. Therefore, Bukya John Bosco, the Spokesperson of Ssingo Artisanal and Small Scale Miners Association, presented a report demanding for an explanation about their fate in the mining industry.
Mr Bukya explained that, six months down the road, after a presentation to the President (H.E Y.K Museveni) of their concerns, he promised to look into the matter but till date, nothing has been done. This has left them wondering whether this is a deliberate move to frustrate them and to eliminate them from the mining industry totally.
He shared that, “the government has not provided proof of the mineralization in the proposed area of relocation and we are not sure whether it is suitable for artisanal and small scale mining”. He further explained that, “the rock in that area requires highly sophisticated technology which may involve blasting, excavation and use of chemicals which the evictees may not afford given their current state of income”. He thus wondered why they are being forced to take up areas with limited value and opportunities thereby causing more suffering to them.
“The 10 square kilometers area promised to us by the president in areas of Madudu and Kalwana sub-counties do not exist in reality as they are already occupied by the hardworking coffee and maize farmers, wetlands and a forest company. The government has not proved that they have compensated or got consent from the current occupants of the land”, he further elaborated.
Overall, the miners seriously faulted officials of the MEMD (specifically the Directorate of Geological Surveys and mines) for the unfair treatment towards artisanal gold miners in Mubende since the evictions in August last year.
Reactions to the Miners’ submission: Commissioner Zachary Baguma
The Commissioner from Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) labored to explain the circumstances under which the miners were evicted, which greatly angered them. He emphasized that, “the law is clear, the artisanal miners interfered with the work of the investor and we had to get rid of them to organize the industry”. He further explained that, “When the miners made applications for location licenses, their interests were on already licensed areas and this was the basis of our refusal to grant them the location licenses”.
None the less, he also revealed that the area being suggested to the evicted miners in Kalwana and Madudu sub-counties in Mubende district comprising of about 10 square kilometers is indeed not viable and the artisanal miners would not get much value from there.
The Commissioner explained that the results of the studies carried out by a team from the DGSM on the 10 square kilometers land, indicated that physical gold could not be seen but features associated with fine gold had been traced within this location. This implied that heavy and sophisticated machinery has to be used in drilling, brushing, and milling. He also pointed out that there would be use of a lot of chemicals to get the gold, which the government does not recommend to artisanal miners to apply in their operations.
The Commissioner also shared that another area has been identified but it is located in a forest reserve which is not free as well which means permission has to be sought from the National Forest Authority and that is what the DGSM is going to embark on as a next step strategy.
The above feedback riled the miners who shot back protesting against the information shared by the Commissioner. An irritated miner, one Mr Kiridawa Steven furiously shot back to the Commissioner and expressed deep disappointment over mistreatment by the officials who manage mining issues in Uganda and particularly those who are responsible for their un-ending suffering. Overall, the meeting turned somewhat rowdy but returned to normalcy following the intervention by the Hon. Nalongo Benny Bugembe Namugwanya (Woman Member of Parliament for Mubende district and also Minister for Kampala City Authority) and security agents who were around.
Final Reactions to the submissions of the Miners and the Commissioner: RDC Evelyn Kiiza; Ministers Benny Bugembe and Peter Lokeris
The RDC of Mubende, Ms. Evelyn Kizza Tinkamalirwe stressed that the area that has been earmarked for relocation of the evicted miners needed inspecting before resettling them, a process that would cost the government more money, yet the area is well not mineralized. She thus labelled the planned relocation as wastage of government’s limited resources.
Hon. Nalongo Benny Bugembe Namugwanya advised that there is need for the MEMD to provide an alternative location for these artisanal miners by liaising with the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and National Forest Authority to ascertain whether there is an opportunity to de-gazette the forest reserves so that the artisanal miners are provided with opportunity to resume gold mining despite the government’s current initiative to protect the environment.
Finally, Hon. Benny Bugembe and Hon. Peter Lokeris promised to present the miners’ report to President Yoweri Museveni for high level intervention. They deeply regretted the suffering of the miners and promised to raise their issues with the higher office.
The reality on the ground
The evictions in Mubende left all the gold miners wondering around the areas of Bukuya, Kamusenene, Kyaliwolera, Kassanda, Lwebituuti, Lugongwe, Kalagala, and many other surrounding areas within Mubende. Many are suffering and do not have means of survival, and others are virtually homeless. Men ran away from their families out of fear and frustration, while many women were left with no option but to fend for their children in a hard to work area. Few have managed to cope with the change and they resorted to other means of survival like vending merchandise in the markets and roasting meat on the road sides among others coping mechanisms.
The forceful eviction of the artisanal miners followed a presidential directive to get rid of unregulated mining in Mubende district on grounds that the people in the mines were not registered and were operating illegally and costing government a lot of revenue through the sale of unaccounted for and unregistered gold.
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.
He describes artisanal miners as “a menace” to the mining sector
In a new twist that arguably contradicts government rhetoric on Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASMs) in the country, the Director, Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Edwards Kato, has ordered all illegal artisanal miners to vacate the respective mines.
“Those people [artisanal miners], still joking should style up. Now, I’m not only a director [in the ministry] but also a commander of the Minerals Protection Unit of the Uganda Police Force. So, those illegal artisanal miners still behaving like those in Mubende [who were evicted], they should pack and vacate the mines, otherwise, my police force will them help to pack,” Mr Kato said.
With the Mineral Police, he emphasized the “madness” of artisanal miners will stop. Kato praised the “Chunga Mazingira Operation”, sanctioned by President Yoweri Museveni in which more than 60,000 artisanal gold miners in Bukuya and Kitumbi sub counties in Mubende district were evicted to pave way for an investor to develop the mines.
The eviction left many artisanal gold miners counting loses without any source of livelihood. The artisanal miners have since sued Attorney General [Government] seeking compensation for their property destroyed during the brutal eviction jointly carried out by the army and police.
On August 7th, this year, the Inspector General of Police (IGP), created a unit known as Mineral’s Protection Police, within the police force. Headed by Ms. Keigomba Jesca, the Unit is charged with implementing policies, plans and strategies for effective security of minerals in the country. The unit was formed days after the army and police evicted artisanal miners in Mubende district. Minerals have a direct impact on revenue, immigration, law and order as well as environmental management.
“Artisanal miners have been a big thorn in the mineral’s sector. They are a total menace,” Mr Kato said.
Kato was on Wednesday 4th, October this year speaking at the 6thAnnual Mineral Wealth Conference at Kampala Serena Hotel. Running under the theme “Minerals: Knocking on the door to cause economic transformation in Uganda,” the conference is organized by the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development.
According to a report titled, “Understanding Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) Operations in Uganda,” by African Center for Energy Policy (ACEMP), 2016, there are more than 250,000 Artisanal and Small Scale Miners in Uganda. Eviction of these miners will exacerbate unemployment and impoverishment, especially among the youth and women who work in the mines.
Though most artisanal miners do their work without any license, which is illegal, evicting them from the mines is not a solution. They instead need to be helped to formalize their operations and licensed. Under section 4(1) of the Mining Act, to prospect, explore, mine, retain or dispose of any mineral without a license, any person mining without a license, upon conviction is liable to a pay fine of Shs 500,000= shillings or imprisonment not exceeding one year. In case of a company, the fine is not exceeding Shs 1 million.
However, in a tongue-in-cheek presentation, Mr Kato pledged to organize artisanal miners. “We need to regulate and formalize Artisanal and Small Scale Mines (ASMs), they have become a menace all over. Government shall organize and license artisanal miners and transform their activities into formidable and viable business entities,” he said contradicting himself.
Artisanal Miners have formed associations in a bid to formalize their mining activities. However, government has been reluctant to recognize these associations. For instance, artisanal gold miners in Mubende formed and registered Ssingo Artisanal and Small Scale Miners Association. The association applied for exploration licenses. The Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) didn’t decline to grant artisanal miners a license, but did not even give them feedback. Failure to give feedback contravenes Mining Act, 2003.
“We shall ensure that artisanal mining is a preserve for Uganda citizens and encourage joint ventures for small scale mining operations,” he said.
In a clear contrast and manifestation of lack of coordination, Mr. Alain Goetz, the Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of African Gold Refinery (AGR), seemed to praise artisanal miners for their constant supply of gold to the refinery. He said his company will work closely with artisanal mining communities in Mubende to ensure that artisanal miners maximize their returns, perhaps not aware that they were evicted from the mines.
A CASE FOR KARAMOJA EXPLORATION
Dr Elly Karuhanga, the chairman Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP) asked government to earmark $ 20 million dollars for the geophysical Aerial survey of Karamoja. The area was left out due to insecurity then. “Why can’t we as a country mobilize $ 20 million dollars (approximately Shs 70 billion) and explore Karamoja, a basket for our mineral” Hon. Karuhanga said. Geophysical Aerial survey help to determine the minerals available in an area.
On her part, Speaker of Parliament, Rebecca Kadaga pledged to “harass” the Ministry of Finance, Planning and Economic Development to find the money to finance geophysical Aerial survey for Karamoja. “We can’t find $ 20 million dollars? Really, I think this is lack of focus and commitment towards the mining sector,” Kadaga said.
By Edward Ssekika
Got Apwoyo sub county is headquartered somewhere inside a tiny structure in Nwoya district, tucked behind the Gulu – Pakwach highway. Turning off at a trading centre is a small road that leads to the quiet two-roomed establishment.
The trading centre, a product of one of the several Internally Displaced Camps during the wanted warlord, Joseph Kony’s Lord’s Resistance Army insurgency in northern Uganda, is littered with grass thatched structures.
The area is fairly cool, it’s the rainy season. Endless tracts of green vegetation are visible are along the highway. Expansive gardens of cereal are visible too. In the background of the sub county office is expansive maize garden. It looks healthy.
The region, having not been cultivated for a long time during the insurgency, has very fertile soils. In fact there are agro-based companies cultivating on very large scale. But beneath the agricultural potential here, lie simmering emotions and a sense of hopelessness.
Mr Openy Ben Latim, the LC3 chairperson Got Apwoyo sub county, is a very bitter man. Nwoya district lies in the Albertine region which harbours Uganda’s oil fields. Across the highway is the Murchison Falls National Park where Total E&P won production licences for oil and gas in the Exploration Area (EA1).
Despite the proximity, Mr Openy is not optimistic at all and says the people are not happy. During the initial oil exploration in the park while prospecting for hydro carbons, locals and leaders did not know what was going on.
“I don’t think we are going to benefit anything. Youth would come from Kampala to work here when we have our own. They used to bring everything from Kampala. Trucks used to bring vegetables for those people yet here we can grow vegetables,” Openy says in a bitter tone.
The explanation that Nwoya district is part of government’s master plan for the oil sector – the standard gauge railway poised to run through the district, a network of roads in the park, feeder pipelines linking to the Central Processing Facility in Buliisa – does not offer any comfort.
In fact, the mention of Buliisa irks him the more. “You see, everything happens in Nwoya but ends up in Buliisa,” he says.
A story is told of how a group of locals once intercepted a truck that was leaving the park because they believed it was carrying crude oil. The truck was one of several that delivered suppliers then to the camps in the park during the exploration.
At Anaka Sub County not far from Nwoya district headquarters, the sentiments are not any different. Mr Opobo Geoffrey, the LC3 chairperson, said it was absurd that oil companies could not give their people simple jobs like security guards or drivers.
“We do have those certified drivers here but they cannot get jobs there,” he said when asked if some of the locals were certified drivers.
“We do not know anything that is going on there in the park. The only thing we know about Total is the scholarships some of our youth get. I so far have four students benefiting, but that is it,” he said.
The now Pakwach was curved off Nebbi district. Mr Okumu Benson is the LC3 chairperson Pakwach Town Council. He too adds his voice saying they do not have information about the oil activities in the district.
In the compound of the town council offices stands a Total – that now has a production licence for EA1 in Murchison Falls – branded notice board. Also a Total branded ‘suggestion box’ is pinned on the main administration block. Mr Okumu says the oil company occasionally pins up general information about developments in the sector but locals interpret it otherwise.
“They usually find their way to the camps and claim they advertised jobs. We wonder where they get that information but it’s because people are desperate. Sometimes they accuse us of hiding oil jobs from them,” Okumu says.
Mr Aguta Jimmy Frank, the Pakwach town clerk, says because of lack of information has misled people. During the exploration stage there was a wide spread problem of land speculation in the Albertine region because of oil.
“People here sold their land at giveaway prices to speculators. Our people were taken advantage of and now they blame the government,” Mr Aguta says. Expectations remain high now that production phase is upon the country. Chairman Okum says they were told at a workshop in Kampala that 13,000 jobs would be created for Ugandans. But there is a catch.
Not all about oil
“This is the time to seize opportunities in the oil sector,” Paul Tumwebaze of Civil Society Coalition on Oil and Gas once told a youth workshop in Masindi. This is a statement that has countless times resonated at numerous oil and gas workshops, the media and conferences under the flagship of ‘local content’.
Whereas several Ugandans have pinned hopes on oil since prospecting started industry stakeholders advise about the immense opportunities available to feed off the value chain of the sector.
While meeting local government leaders, all of whom have been mentioned above, Didas Muhumuza, the ActionAid Extractives Governance project manager, who has immense knowledge of the sector as well, passed on the same message.
Specifically rallying for the inclusion of youth in accountable governance of the oil and gas sector, he reiterated that the industry will not absorb every Ugandan looking to join the sector.
“The decisions government is taking now as we enter the production phase were informed from what has been gathered since exploration started. There is nothing we can change now, but can work within the existing infrastructure,” Muhumuza told the meeting at Got Apwoyo Sub County.
Chairman Openy had endlessly lamented that Nwoya was being sidelined, wondering why the oil pipeline network that will be draining in the Central Processing Facility should be located in Buliisa. Mr Muhumuza was at pains to explain that because Murchison Falls is a protected area much of the activity could not take place there.
While many of the leaders lamented their youth were not equipped to position themselves for opportunities through skilling and training, there are organisations like the GIZ-funded Skilling Uganda that are offering these opportunities. The programme is targeting to skill 8,000 youth in welding, driving, carpentry, electrical which will be on high demand during the production phase.
ActionAid Uganda under the Extractives Governance is rolling out a two-year Ford Foundation supported intervention to sensitise youth and build their capacity to gain an understanding of the extractives sector and use their knowledge to engage state and corporate actors in the accountable management of the sector. The project focuses on four Albertine districts of Hoima, Buliisa, Nwoya, Nebbi; and Mubende district.
Fortunately some of the leaders are not hopelessly waiting for the magic bullet. Mr Shaban Kinobe. LC3 chairman Panyimur Sub County said everyone is looking at oil whereas opportunities are abound in the value chain. Many of the leaders however expressed optimism about the new project, “People in Power; Influencing People in Power.
He denies knowledge of eviction plan by his army!
Mr Museveni expressed this last week ( Friday 8/09/2017) while meeting the leaders of Mubende at the State Logde in Nakayima, Mubende. The meeting comprised of the area Members of Parliament, Residential District Commissioners, District Internal Security Officer, Regional Police Commander, District Police Commander LC111s and LCVs.
When asked his whereabouts at the time of evictions by his army men, President Museveni defended self, saying his intervention was overtaken by events.
“I had wanted to come and talk to these artisanal miners but there was a misunderstanding when Members of Parliament requested me to first talk to the miners and at the same time the army officers that had been put on standby went ahead with the operation, evicted the artisanal miners and they were also denied the chance of taking their property which was not right and un necessary,” Mr Museveni said.
Here he promised to ensure that miners are compensated, although he admitted that it may be difficult and may take time but allowed miners to return to work.
This same message, the President re-echoed during the radio talk show on Point FM in Mubende on Friday.
Mr. Museveni added that; “Earlier on during the Presidential campaigns, I informed the artisanal miners that they can continue with mining activities if they do not stand in the way of large scale investors that are helping us find the real gold deposits but later on, I was informed by the members of parliament that the artisanal miners operating in this area have invaded the land offered to the investor and are antoginising his work, contrary to the contract,” he said.
He further explained that he has no problem with artisanal miners that were operating in this area; “we only needed to re-organise the mining sector by having the local artisans doing proper mining activities.”
Mr. Museveni added that; “Uganda is endowed with very many minerals that we need to handle with care, we cannot allow the illegal mining activities to be carried out which might lead to extinction of these treasures yet with few people benefiting. We all need to benefit from the minerals as a country.”
Meeting with ASMs
The President told Hon. Semeo Nsubuga, MP Kasanda South to organize the miners for a meeting with the President to streamline how the miners will work.
Speaking to Oil in Uganda; The secretary Singo Artisan Miners’ Association Mr Emmanuel Kibirige confirmed that they were contacted by Hon. Nsubuga to prepare to meet the President.
“We are ready to meet the President; we want him to understand how organized we are and how ready we are to work with investors so that all of us benefit from the Mining sector,” Mr Kibirige said.
Kibirige indicated that they have always been organized in associations and have always shown the willingness to work with the investor-AUC mining which currently holds the exploration license for this area-207.8Sqkm and a mining lease of 66sq.km which has been running for the last 23years.
The President has shown willingness to support the ASMs, with a planned visit to the mines slated for 21st October to mend fences. There is thus assurance that the miners may return to work but in a more formal way, more organized manner.
Last month there was a Presidential directive to evict over 50,000 miners from Mubende gold mining area on grounds that the people in the mines are not registered, government doesn’t know the amount of gold getting out from this area, the people operating in this area are not Ugandans and increased environmental degradation which is a threat to the nearby communities.
Many of who were evicted had no relocation plans hence were left helpless and homeless. During the evictions, property worth billions of shillings were destroyed.
However the former Permanent Secretary under Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Dr.Stephen. Isabalija in the letter dated 02/9/2017 entitled ‘statement on illegal mining activities in Uganda’ explained that government was putting in place intervention for all the local artisans to be registered in all mining areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties so that they can be organized into groups that shall ultimately be regulated. This process he said would take three months.
ActionAid Uganda is equally working out a plan to support the miners to sue the Government for losses that ensued during the evictions an d the impromptu evictions without respecting the grace period that had been granted to the miners.
Josephine Nabaale and Flavia Nalubega