Miners unhappy with land allocated to them by government claiming it is suitable for growing yams and potatoes but not gold mining
On the 3rd of August 2017, with orders from a directive that was issued by the President of the Republic of Uganda, hundreds of police officers and armed soldiers were sent to Mubende District to evict the artisanal and small scale gold miners of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties. The miners were given two hours to vacate the land on which they mined and lived.
This land was occupied by about 70,000 people of whom over 20,000 were directly involved in mining. As the police carried out the eviction, the process became hostile; the miners’ houses and property were destroyed; machinery was confiscated; millions of shillings that had been invested in their mining practices was lost; children were abandoned at the mines as people fled in fear for their lives and generally, people lost ball mills, husbands, wives, brothers, sisters and friends! The mining city was sent to the streets. A source of livelihood left behind.
The government said the miners were mining illegally and that they needed 3 months to organize and regulate them. The land on which they now formerly mined was awarded to an investor; AUC Mining.
It is mid-October, and the future still seems bleak. The government granted the miners land on which to carry out exploration activities. This 10sqkm is in Wakayiba, a small village that lies South of Kisiita, a sub county in Kibaale District.
On 14th October 2017, representatives of the evicted miners met with the Agnes Alaba, Assistant Commissioner for the Minerals Sector and visited the area. This was a first time visit for both parties the local community’s reaction was unfriendly clearly, they were unwelcome.
There are a number of reasons that this is a rush move and may not be in the right direction. The first and most crucial is that, it has been heard from a credible source that exploration has already been carried out on that land and the former investor surrendered the land after finding that it had no mineral/gold potential. It also turns out that there has not been any geological survey carried out in the recent days by the Department of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) showing the mineral potential of the land to which men, women and children who have known nothing besides mining are being relocated to.
Furthermore, the land already has residents that have stayed there for years and seem to have not been made aware of the new developments. They are using the land for cultivation and do not want interference with their livelihood. From the engagements the miners have had with government, the latter claims to not have money for sensitization of the local community.
In addition, the land already has land owners (bibanja holders) who claim have not received any payment or promise of compensation from the government. The miners also say they do not have any money to pay these land owners as they lost all the money during the August evictions.
From the discussions with Commissioner, the miners are expected to move to Kisiita and start operations on 21st of October. Before this can happen, a number of things have to take place;
- The DGSM has to mobilize the resources to carry out a geological survey of the 10sqkm. The areas on which the miners were formerly mining had a lot of mineral potential, it would be unfair for them to now start mining “blindly”.
- In the Bukuya and Kitumbi, the community had created alternative livelihood for wives, widows and mothers. They formed groups in which they made bricks, grew tomatoes and reared chicken. As the women were also affected as a result of the eviction, there is a need to incorporate these alternative livelihoods in the new area, as the miners will be moving with their families.
- The government, the miners and the land owners need to come to an agreement or arrangement on how the land owners will be compensated. This will reduce the risk of future conflict.
- There is a great need to sensitize the local community. If not sensitized about the new move and the benefits that artisanal and small scale mining can bring to their community, there will be disputes between the newcomers and the locals. Artisanal and small scale mining has many advantages for communities, including indirect linkages between the different activities in the area, economic development and improvement of social welfare.
- Objective 3 in the Mineral Policy, 2001 of Uganda is “to regularize and improve artisanal and small scale mining”, 16 years down the road and artisanal miners are still called illegal miners and can barely manage to get a location license. For an export that managed to rise to $336 million (UgShs 1.2 trillion) at the end of 2016, rivaling coffee (which no other export has done in years) there is a need formalize and regulate this sub sector as it contributes massively to the sector as a whole and to economic development of the country.
For now, we await the results from the miners’ meeting with President Yoweri Kaguta Museveni that is slated to take place on the 25th of October 2017.