Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Artisanal and small scale miners in Mubende and Kassanda areas are set to return to their former mining areas after receiving a new exploration license. It comes after three years of frustration and persistent lobbying by the miners.
In 2017, thousands of artisanal and small scale miners prospecting for gold were brutally evicted from the mines on grounds that their activities were a security threat. The group which had been in area since 2010 were given two hours to vacate the place before security officers unleashed brutality on them.
The evictions sparked outrage and a series of negotiations between government, associations of miners, and AUC Mining (U) Limited, the company which owned an exploration area covering 282.9sq km. As a result, the sides resolved that AUC Mining relinquish 30 percent of the land to the artisanal and small scale miners.
The Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines in the Energy and Mineral Development Ministry went on to regularize their mining activities and issued over 30 location licenses to the miners to prospect for gold in the two districts.
However, after investing millions of Shillings, artisanal miners became pessimistic about the existence of gold in the new locations where they had been designated to work from as returns on investment were obscure.
The development triggered fresh negotiations and deal daring, AUC Mining (U) Limited owned by Gertrude Njuba, a long time presidential advisor and Moses Masagazi were pushed to strike a deal with the miners. They surrendered the one square kilometer block to the artisans in the areas they have been craving for.
“The exploration license is hereby granted to Mubende united miners association for three years to prospect for base metals, gold with the boundaries on the attached map and colored red,” the license issued by the Commissioner Geological Survey and Mineral Development, Agnes Alaba reads in part.
Emmanuel Kibirige, the General Secretary Mubende United Miners Association- an umbrella body for all artisans in the area notes that the new license allows them to operate in areas of Kamusenene which can host over 10,000 people directly and indirectly.
Francis Jjuuko, a gold miner in Kassanda, says having spent almost a year in unproductive areas, they are now happy as they will be able to compensate for the losses made. “Kamusenene is productive. We once operated in that area and when we were told that the license is taking us back to those old places. We were so happy,” Jjuuko said.
Sources note that AUC was left with nothing to do since they had their licenses at stake. “Parliament had halted the renewal of their license pending the disposal of a petition filed by Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners,” the source noted.
AUC wanted to renew three gold exploration licenses in Mubende-Kasanda areas that expired in February this year after making the statutory seven years’ period of exploration. In the negotiations according to sources, AUC gave up the area and as a result, they had their license renewed thus advancing their interest in the area for another seven years.
Miners in Kassanda have started organizing themselves to see how they can restart their lives. Kibirige says they are soon going to meet leaders in the area and afterward embark on the registration process for people who wish to operate in their ‘new’ mining area.
Kibirige says they will as well continue to prospect in the 30 location licenses which were given to them in 2019 situated at Kyabikoola village in Bukuya, in the new Kassanda district. The said licenses will expire mid next year.
Winfred Ngabiirwe, the Executive Director of Global Rights Alerts that has been advocating for the group says the development is a good sign towards the future of artisan mining in Uganda. She notes that now the artisan miners are challenged to ensure that they don’t involve in illegal activities as they return to the old sites.
Ngabiirwe further challenges government to put up a conducive environment through which the ASMs can operate and develop to take part in major mining activities in the future.
John Bosco Bukya, the chairperson Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small-scale notes that although the miners have been allowed to return, there is a pending issue of their compensation for alleged torture, theft and extortion during the 2017 eviction.