BUSIA —In less than a week since Parliament passed a motion to inquire into alleged misconduct of UPDF soldiers in civil matters, artisanal miners from Busia district have appealed to Parliament to halt military deployment in their gold mines, accusing it for defending interests of a foreign investor over theirs.
The Small scale gold miners told legislators on the Committee of Natural Resources and Environment on Saturday December 13, 2019, that the army is shielding a Turkish investor identified only as Mustafa, who manipulated one of the local miners associations to enter into agreements and on breach of agreements, went ahead and evicted over 100 miners using the help of the army.
“We had an investment agreement with him of $4million, he has not honored it, we agreed to give him shares on condition that he will give us machinery but he hasn’t brought any, now he has evicted people and we haven’t been mining for almost a year” said Padole Steven, Chairperson Busia United Miners Association.
The Natural Resources Committee was on a two day oversight visit in the Eastern region, following a countrywide outcry from Artisanal miners accusing security operatives of torture, extortion of money, and unfair issuance of licenses from Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development.
Artisanal miners are aggrieved that Mustafa using his financial muscle connived with the former Busia Resident District Commissioner, Hussein Matanda to obtain license in fields already licensed to local miners, and that the army deployment is illegal since the case against Mustafa is before court.
“This Turkish man has used his money to influence authorities to be on his side, he even lied to court that he has license, we have even heard he has gone ahead to meet the minister of energy despite an earlier court ruling requiring him to present a license within six month”, said Kwemboi George, Chairperson Tiira Small Scale Mining Association.
The Committee moved by the risk local miners stand at the hands of foreign investor, urged the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Development to fast track drafting of the Bill on Mining in order to protect interests of Artisanal miners.
“There is an outcry from Artisanal miners country wide, in Mubende about 60,000 miners and their families were evicted, in Buhweju investors are chasing away people, we appeal to government to expeditiously draft the law on mining such that rights of small scale miners are protected” Said Dr. Keefa Kiwanuka, Chairperson Committee of Natural Resources and Environment.
On deployment of army which according to the local Police Minerals Protection Unit was done without consultation with the Police, Hon Kassiano Wadri (Ind, Arua) urged Ministry of Energy to task Ministry of Defense to withdraw the army as court hears the case.
“I urge the you officials in the Ministry of Energy to use your relations with the Ministry of Defense to explain how the army was deployed here and withdraw it since it is unlawful” Said Wadri
The Energy and Minerals Development Ministry officials, on the other inter hand blamed a few local miners for conniving with Mustafa to sign agreements incognito on behalf of their associations, only later to realize they were cheated.
“Miners entered into agreement with the Turkish man, gave him 49% of shares, he connived with some members who gave rights of mining of over 50 years” Said Zachary Baguma, Assistant Director Directorate of Geological Surveys and Minerals at Minitry of Energy and Minerals Development.
Baguma advised the Committee to interact the Turkish investor, who he said possesses documentary evidence for all agreements, afraid that he stands a better position than local miners before court.