OPERATIONS at Epanko Spinal mines in Ulanga district were yesterday halted temporarily to pave way for thorough scrutiny of the mining licences and processes.
Deputy Minister for Minerals Dotto Biteko gave the stop order here, ordering experts from the Mineral Commission to appraise all licences and processes to ensure the mining activities are conducted, legally.
Mr Biteko had just received a report from a team of mineral and security experts that he had formed about a month ago.
The deputy minister formed the team on June 13, this year to inspect the mining sites in Morogoro region's Mahenge and Ulanga districts, following his tour of Ulanga district where he discovered huge smuggling of minerals, with massive tax evasion, denying the government of its due revenues.
Mr Biteko said that due to the discovery, the government has decided to act, directing the security committee to ensure all equipment are left intact at the sites. Besides the directive, he issued a three-day ultimatum to 15 licenced miners to evacuate their machineries in the mines and gather them on one point without relocating anything.
He pointed out that the report from the team of experts confirmed various shortfalls at Epanko mines. He said the government is currently getting loyalties and taxes amounting to only 25m/-, which he described as peanut considering all the mining activities at the mines.
Mr Biteko identified some of the minerals being mined as spinal, gold, black stones and rubies.
"The report has uncovered massive unlawful mining activities and environmental destructions in the river... we have not constructed a wall at the mining site in Epanko but it is the responsibility of the security committee and other stakeholders to ensure all the mining activities are carried out as per the law," said the Deputy Minister.
He directed the security committee to guard the equipment, which was being used until the government is certain that it does not owe the miners anything.
"Inspections will start anytime from now and will involve owners of the mines, buyers, those with offices and mineral dealers in Mahenge to confirm their operation legality," he said.
The Mining Commission Executive Secretary Prof Shukrani Manya decried several gaps, including lack of proper supervision to facilitate a proper chain from mining up to processing.