The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has finally got a place where small-scale gold miners that were evicted from Mubende about three months ago can operate.
Vincent Kedi, the ministry's principal engineer, said they have called back all miners for registration so that they can resume their businesses without disruption. “We have demarcated 10 square kilometers where they will operate from. But this time, they will have to be organised and also pay government taxes,” he said.
However, he is non-committal on how much government expects to collect as royalties from these miners. Kedi said this at the recent national stakeholders’ dialogue on artisanal and small-scale mining at Hotel Africana.
It was organised by Global Rights Alert, a non-governmental organization that seeks to promote good governance of Uganda's natural resources; SaferWorld, an independent organisation working to prevent violent conflict, and the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.
In August this year, government deployed a joint force comprising the police, UPDF and military police to evict about 60,000 people who were carrying out small-scale gold mining in the area. The evicted people were given two hours to leave the area they had occupied for five years.
Kedi said that, this time, they only have space for 2,000 who will be strictly monitored to en- sure they don't cross from their allocated area.
Vincent Kinene, the Mubende district environmental officer, welcomed the ministry's move, noting that artisanal miners had greatly contributed to the economic development of the area.
“Companies that were given mining leases were not con- tributing to Mubende's development, but I believe that once artisans return, they will be able to pay taxes and that will be used to construct schools, health facilities and roads,” he said.
He added that Mubende district used to get about Shs 300m per year from other businesses associated with artisanal miners.
Emmanuel Kibirige, the chairman of Ssingo Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Association, is not enthusiastic about the new development. He pointed out that the new place where they have been sent is a wetland, has no gold, has several trees and is already occupied by other people.
He wondered how miners with no excavators would be sent to such an area. Kibirige asked government to allow them back to Lujinji where they were operating at first.
Florence Namayanja, the Bukoto East MP, demanded to know from Kedi why thousands of people would be evicted for the sake of a single investor.
“We went to Mubende when the eviction was being enforced and, my God, people were suffering! Parents could not locate their children and a lot of property worth millions was lost... But who is this person the government is protecting? How could they even think of doing such a thing?” she asked.
But Kedi said the situation in Mubende had gone out of control and that's why an eviction was inevitable, promising that such a thing will never happen again.