HomePOLITICSThe opposition insists on blocking the mineral bill overcompensation.

The opposition insists on blocking the mineral bill overcompensation.

Joshua Nahamya

The leader of opposition Mathius Mpuga has asked the government to consider the compensation aspect while amending the tabled mining and mineral bill in parliament.

The mining and mineral bill was approved by the cabinet in April 2021 to effectively implement the tenets of the 2018 mining and mineral policy.

According to Hon. Sarah Opendi, the minister of state for mineral development, the mining and mineral bill will repeal the outdated Mining Act, 2003 to streamline the mining sector in the country.

While addressing journalists in Mbarara on Monday, Mpuga confirmed that the motivation to traverse Kigezi and Ankole sub-regions was driven by the move of parliament that will consider the amendment of the mining and minerals in the coming weeks.

The leader of the opposition together with the shadow cabinet including; Joyce Bagala, Abdul Bwanika, Winfred Nuwagaba concluded a three days execution in the districts of Kabale and Buhweju to explore the artisan miners’ operations.

As opposition in parliament, we contend that some of the considered amendments are likely to affect people involved in mining on a smaller scale than those we call artisan miners, says Mpuga.

“You are aware Kigezi and Kabale in particular are endowed with plenty of iron ore, wolfram, gold, tin and other minerals underneath these are hosted on land that is privately owned. Therefore, the proposed legislation will have frailty implications if it’s passed in that form because most of the private miners don’t have licenses but have been trying to earn a living using informal and clued technology”. He explained

However, Hon Mpuga reported that it was unfortunate for the members of parliament to stand blocked from accessing gold mines in the Buhweju district.

Opposition MPs in a mine exploration in Ankole and Kigezi sub region

“It was unfortunate that we were blocked from accessing the gold mines in Buhweju. We were only advised that we were a theatre for battle, even the military is fighting with the artisan miners and that partly justifies our interest in what is taking place in the mines and also as to why mining has become a matter of life and death in all part so of the country” LOP said

“You are aware that late gold mining has become a powerful thieving coble in Buhweju, Mubende and Karamoja exporting it for personal benefit. And we are also aware that some of them don’t even pay taxes to the government so they thought they would block information coming to us”. He added

Whereas the constitution says all underground minerals are owned by the government on behalf of the people, the leader of the opposition asks parliament to consider the compensation of landowners in the amendments.

“If government wants to own such mines, they should compensate the owners of land containing such minerals. It should not be like a situation that arose in Bunyoro where people were cheated by private investors” says Mpuga

“Compensation should be dined after proper evaluation of the net worth for the minerals in a specific area. To those who lose their land to government or any other entity, there should be properly, adequately and timely compensated as the constitution commands” he adds

Hon Mpuga insists that he will not support the contentious long-awaited Mining and Minerals Amendment Bill 2O21 if it does not favor the artisan miners.

“Most of the mines where we were, especially in Kigezi, the artisan miners are also the land owners so any attempt to disempower and disfranchise them in favour of the foreign investors is a disservice. So, the problems of the miners are different and I promised artisan miners that I will not support anything that disempowers them”. He explained

“You probably have picked the issues in gold mining in Mubende, the marble mining gold in Karamoja and all that was seized by individuals using the military. All these are generating a lot of interest and they are going to inform the legislation before parliament to amend the existing mining legal regime” adds Mpuga

He also appealed to the government to establish an iron smelting plant that will directly benefit the miners.

“Our view is that government should establish a smelting plant so that the owners of the mine deposits should go and sell to government”

Hon Mpuga noted that security operatives who blocked them from accessing gold mines in Buhweju will be sued for shielding illegal miners in the district.

“Certainly, those who blocked us from accessing the mines think that we are fools. We know that they are hiding something and there is a lot of criminality going on in the gold mines. But information is like wind so we have plenty of it and we are going to open a case against some of these illegalities that we were able to establish in such communities” the LOP said

Francis Mwijukye, area MP Buhweju revealed that poor locals in the mines should freely benefit from the natural resources.

“The poor people in the mines desire to benefit from our god given resources and as politicians, it’s our duty to support but not to undermine, scatter and deprive the locals. So, the question of us to defend their right to a descent economic life to support their families it’s what we are going to do” said Mwijukye

He adds that the leader of the opposition’s visit to Buhweju was timely to save the cheated miners by investors in the area.

“It’s a role of everybody specifically those whose land has been resonated and because we lead people of different categories, such visits are for courtesy to our people,” says Mwijukye

The mining and mineral spells penalties, sanctions, and punitive fines on illegal mining and non-performing mineral rights for both small scales, medium and large-scale artisanal miners.

“Citizens caught mining without permits commit an offence, according to the draft, and are liable to a fine of one billion Shillings or imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both, upon conviction. The bill also provides for a fine of 100 million Shillings to miners using hazardous substances such as mercury or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both.” Reads part of the bill

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