Civil Society advocating for transparency in the mineral sector has appealed to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to hasten the passing into law of the Drafted Mining and Mineral Bill of 2019.
They argue that the law will protect Artisanal and Small Scale Miners from the ongoing controversies relating to their Licensing.
According to Don Bwesigye Binyina the Executive Director of Africa Center for Energy and Mineral Policy, the absence of a strong legal regime that regulates the Mining sector has affected the operations of artisanal and small-Scale miners.
“This has exposed some to cruel treatment from security organizations such as Police and the Army,” said Bwesigye during a joint press conference with the Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners Limited in Kampala.
Bwesigye observed that without the law, the Mineral Protection Unit of the Uganda Police Force has taken over many of the supervisory and regulatory roles that the current Mining Act 2003 vests in the Directorate of Geological Surveys and Mines.
“Because of this, many of the Artisanal and Small Scale Miners involved in the Mining of Gold, Tin, Tungsten and many other Minerals in the Central, Eastern and Western parts of Uganda have been harassed by this Mineral Protection Police.
“As a result, this has negatively affected Artisanal and Small Scale Miners both socially and economically,” said Bwesigye.
Apart from the Mineral Protection Police, the Center also blames Operation Wealth Creation for performing duties that do not belong to their docket such as carrying out disputes resolutions among the mining communities, investment promotion and formalization of the Artisanal Miners which is outside the Mining sector policy.
Phyllis Nankoma the Women Representative at the Association told EABW Digital News that the Operations of the Mineral Protection Police have left hundreds of their members homeless and others have incurred financial losses amounting to millions of Ugandan shillings especially in the Mining districts of Mubende and Kasanda.
“The operations of the Mineral Protection Police has caused a lot of economic stress to members especially women.
“Some of us have lost over Ugx34million because of the brutality the forces use while evicting artisans. Mining has been our source of income and therefore, as Artisanal and Smallscale miners, we are calling upon Government especially Parliament to investigate the operations of the Police Mineral Protection Unit,” said Nankoma.
She added by requesting the Uganda Human Rights Commission to document and address Human Rights abuses of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners and the landlords in the various Mining regions by the police and other security agencies.
During the same briefing, John Bosco Bukya the Chairman of the Miners Association said the delays in the passing of the Drafted Mining and Minerals Bill of 2019 has impacted on the Business decision making by Artisanal and Small Scale Miners since the current law doesn’t effectively support Artisanal miners.
In response to their outcry, Don Bwesigye Binyina said in collaboration with Parliament, they will ensure that the 2019 Drafted Mining and Minerals Bill is passed into law.
“We are going to work together with the legislature to ensure that the Bill is given priority on the floor of Parliament when it’s passed, it will address some of the current bottlenecks the Artisanal Miners are facing,” said Bwesigye.
During the same briefing Francis Mwijukye, the MP for Buhweju County in Western Uganda promised to spearhead the debate on the floor of Parliament.
He said his office has been receiving negative reports about the Mineral Protection Police with claims that it has taken over the mandate of the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development but also assumed the role of Judge’s because they arrest and Judge people in the Mining blocks.
The content of the Drafted Bill seeks to formalize and regulate Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining in the mineral sector including commercial exploitation of building and construction materials collectively referred to as the Development Minerals.
According to information available from the Geological studies, Uganda is endowed with volumes of tonnes of minerals such limestone deposit estimated to be at 300million tonnes, over 6millon tonnes of copper are anticipated in Kilembe and 7.3million ounces of gold deposit in West Nile among other minerals deposits.
But, without a clear law, Artisanal and Small Scale Miners may be left out to effectively participate in the mining business thus keeping only big multinational companies in the sector.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO