Artisanal miners who were evicted from the gold mines in Mubende district in August 2017 have rejected newly proposed mining sites offered to them by AUC Mining Company on suspicion that it may not have desired gold reserves.
This followed a directive by the President of Uganda, through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), to have the international mining company surrender part of their gold mining area to the artisanal miners. The land to be surrendered includes areas of Katuugo, Buseregenyu, Namwasa, Kamusenene, Kagaba and Lugongwe villages in Mubende district.
The miners expressed their disappointment regarding the mining areas during a meeting between the State Minister for Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), Hon. Peter Lokeris, the Local Leadership of Mubende district led by the State Minister for Kampala who also doubles as the Woman MP for Mubende district, Hon. Benny Bugembe, officials from MEMD and leaders of the artisanal and small-scale miners which was held at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines in Entebbe on Thursday 31st May, 2018.
Mr Bukya Bosco, the Chairperson of Mubende United Miners Assembly (MUMA) explained that they are against the move by AUC to partition the gold mining areas since they are also interested parties and thus may do the partitioning unfairly.
"We appreciated the President's move of offering us 30 percent off the entire exportation license which is currently owned by AUC Mining Company but we are totally against the idea of the company directors demarcating the land," he said.
He also added that; "We are not certain whether these pieces of land have any gold deposits because they are located at the extreme boundaries of the entire total land owned by AUC Mining Company. Gold is a risky business which involves a lot of money. We cannot just invest our hard earned money in areas where surveys confirm that there are no viable gold deposits."
The artisanal and small-scale miners would prefer to be granted the chance to participate in the preliminary meeting to enable them identify the areas with more viable gold deposits and also ensure fair sharing of the areas of work.
Hon. Lokeris however insisted that the ASMs sit and agree with the international mining company on which productive areas they prefer for a win-win outcome instead of pulling strings thus leading to strained relations between them and the international mining company,
"Instead of rushing to decisions, we should sit down and discuss with AUC Mining Company in order to curve off the 30 percent that the President directed them to give to you (ASMs). The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development can then support you with a technical team that can confirm the viability of gold reserves in the areas granted to you," he emphasized.
Hon. Lokeris also assured the ASMs that his technical team, representatives of the associations of miners and officials from AUC Mining Company will hold a meeting soon and visit the land in question in order to come up with the exact areas miners are going to operate from.
Hon. Bugembe however called upon the miners to remain calm and work towards returning to their gold mining business peacefully.
However, Mr Masagazi Moses, one of the Directors of AUC Mining Company explained that all the areas that were given to the ASMs are active sites where mining is already taking place.
"Mining activities are on-going in all the villages and this is being presided over by the mineral police following the mass evictions carried out last year. I wrote to MEMD in December last year about the same but up to now no intervations have been done."
Over the last few months, a series of meetings involving area MPs, MEMD officials, Local Council Leaders, Civil Servants and Opinion Leaders in Mubende District have been on-going with the aim of enabling restoration of the evicted miners in Mubende gold mining areas.
Early this year, the ASMs under the Ministers' leadership managed to secure audience with President Museveni who ordered the MEMD officials to reallocate 30 percent of the AUC's exploration area in Mubende to the evicted illegal miners.
However it emerged that astute political manipulators took centre-stage and registered an alternative federation of Miners Association with an aim of benefiting from the deal without involvement of the 'real' ASMs and landlords of the gold mining areas of Mubende. They instead fronted their relatives and spouses to take over the 30 percent mining area allocation.
According to Mr. Emmanuel Kibirige, the General Secretary of Mubende United Miners Association, the alternative federation is headed by Ms. Stella Njuba, a daughter to Madam Gertrude Njuba, who owns 50% shares in the federation. Others are Mr. John Mary Bugembe, husband to Minister for Kampala, Hon. Benny Bugembe, and Ms. Anne Babinaga believed to be related to Hon. Dr. Michael Bukenya (MP of Bukuya, Mubende district). There is more than what the eyes can see with regard to this development of the new federation which was presented to President Museveni to be the beneficiaries of the 30% allocation yet their legality to-date is contested.