By Andante Okanya
Government has described as “premature” a petition filed in court by a mineral explorer that is aggrieved that its license is yet to be renewed.
Government’s position is contained in an affidavit sworn by the acting commissioner Geological Surveys at the Energy and Mineral Development ministry, Edwards Katto.
The affidavit, filed on June 23 by government’s chief legal advisor – the Attorney General – is in response to a petition by Katwe Geothermal Power Project Limited.
In the petition filed at the civil division of the High Court in Kampala, the explorer laments that it has not been given a license, despite filing its application for renewal before expiry of the current license due this year on June 27 (today).
But Katto says the law prescribes a mandatory procedure that must be adhered to, before a license can be renewed.
He says the firm’s complaint is baseless, and wants court to dismiss the petition on grounds that it is premature, incompetent and without merit.
“The Geological Survey and Mines department has been diligently reviewing the renewal application, which reviews include technical reviews by geologists and mining engineers,” he says, adding that a response through courier has been dispatched to the company through FedEx mail delivery service.
The mail contains information on the status of their application, highlighting areas which may be improved.
On June 6, Katwe Geothermal Power Project Limited filed an application for judicial review at the civil division of the High Court, contending that it has fulfilled the requisite paperwork.
Judicial review is conducted by the High Court to scrutinize proceedings plus decisions taken by subordinate courts, inferior tribunals or Government bodies.
The company states that it fulfilled the law regulating mining and applied for the license three months in advance before expiry of the current license.
'Denying constitutional right'
The application is supported by the affidavit of the company’s managing director Henry Lwetabe who states that the company’s current license was granted on May 30, 2011 for a period of three years.
Lwetabe notes that the initial license was granted to Lupampa Muzira, who then legally transferred it to Katwe Geothermal in a transfer instrument dated March 23, 2012.
The firm’s MD explains that when he inquired from the commissioner about the status of the application on the renewal on May 28 this year, he was informed that a court order had been obtained on April 24, blocking the renewal.
He explained to the commissioner the implication of the court order, which was limited to the acquisition of shares in the company, and not its operational license.
Government’s action, he laments, amounts to denying the company’s shareholders their constitutional right to practice their profession and carry out a lawful business.
The case file has been allocated to Justice Benjamin Kabiito as court is yet to deliberate on the issues raised.