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Ministry of Energy to resettle Buhweju artisan miners

FILE PHOTO: Miners

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Energy and mineral development evicted artisan miners will resettle artisan and small scale miners-ASMs a month after they were evicted.

Last month, the mineral police unit evicted the miners on grounds that they engaged into illegal mining in areas which had been licensed for exploration to Hubel Jiu-Zhou Geological Exploration Company Limited, a Chinese company.

The Chinese company acquired a three-year exploration license for the 88.646 square kilometres on December 8, 2016. The artisans who claim to have been operating in the area since the 1930’s when gold was first discovered in the area noted that they had been denied a chance in the licensing process.

In 2017, the company sued artisan miners for encroaching on its gold site. In the suit filed at Mbarara High Court, the company noted that nearly 10,000 artisan gold miners were illegally operating on its site and therefore wants them evicted.

Speaking on Thursday at the citizen’s convention on mining organized by civil societies advocating for miners rights under leadership of Global Rights Alert, Eng. Vincent Kedi, the Principal Engineer for Mining at the Department of Geological Survey, says that the ministry is currently studying the situation so as to come up with long-lasting solutions as they did in Mubende.

He, however, says that the resettlement plans have to wait up to the next license renewal in the area since the exploration’s license will expire in December.

Deusdedit Bainomugisha, the chairperson of Buhweju small scale miners says they were ready to meet whatever conditions that the ministry was suggesting so as to legalize their presence in the area but were not given a chance.

He adds they have always asked the authorities to award them location licenses off the main exploration license in vain.

Edmund Ngabirano, another artisanal miner from Buhweju says they need immediate interventions than promises from government.

Kedi also distanced the ministry from the eviction process which was conducted by the police.

He notes that there has always been lack of coordination between the task force which was put in place to keep sanity in the mining sector and the mainstream ministry departments and agencies.

Winfred Ngabiirwe, the Executive Director Global Rights Alert, says the ministry seems to be in a fix with pressure from unknown people which issue may bog down the efforts to streamline activities of Artisanal miners.

Buhweju District is known for a number of mineral deposits mainly Gold, Tin and kaolin. Mining takes place in Bisya, Engaju, Nsika and other sub-counties. It mainly involves artisan miners who are not licensed by the ministry. There are an estimated 20,000 miners in the district.

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