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NGOs call for protection of artisanal miners

By John Odyek

Added 29th September 2018 03:51 PM

“The children and women need to be protected by laws. The laws should promote accountability and sustainability in the mining sector,” Ngabirwe said.

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Ngabirwe and Kiiza during the conference on promoting inclusiveness in Uganda’s mining sector at Hotel Africana.

“The children and women need to be protected by laws. The laws should promote accountability and sustainability in the mining sector,” Ngabirwe said.

Civil society organisations have asked government to protect the interest of artisanal and small scale miners by giving them mining licenses and empowering them.

Winnie Ngabirwe, the executive director Global Rights Alert, said there is need for inclusiveness in the governance of the mining sector: “The land owners, the mining investors and the Government should sit at the same table to discuss.

The current discussions are heavily dominated by the big investors and the Government and neglecting the artisanal and small scale miners,” she added.

This was during the mining conference on promoting inclusiveness in Uganda’s mining sector organised by Global Rights Alert, an NGO and its partners at Hotel Africana in Kampala on Wednesday.

Ngabirwe explained that there is need to recognise children and women as players, and not victims in the mining sectors. “The children and women need to be protected by laws. The laws should promote accountability and sustainability in the mining sector,” she said.

She said the mining sector in Uganda has a big potential to contribute to social and economic development.

Discoveries of  large quantities of  copper, nickel, gold, chromite, iron ores, tin, tantalite, tungsten, limestone, marble, graphite and gemstones have been made over the last 10 years.

Other resources such as sand, clay and rock mining have also become significant in the face of economic growth.

Nalubega Flavia, acting communications officer and extractives governance officer ActionAid said the mining sector should be all inclusive, a sector that responds to the needs of mining communities on ground, communities that are less privileged and vulnerable. 

“We are very keen on ensuring the artisanal and small scale miners in Mubende attain a license and access gold-rich areas to be able to earn a living. This way, we shall be assured that poverty will be dealt with since the Mubende miners will have access to a source of survival,” Nalubega said.

“We detest the fact that big mining companies take on mining areas at the cost of small scale miners who stand fewer chances to benefit as all the minerals are mined and exported.

These do it at the cost of our country-they export all the minerals and hardly pay taxes and neither do they employ locals. It is thus Government’s role to protect and promote its own people,” Nalubega said.

Prof. Julius Kiiza, a political economy lecturer at Makerere University. Prof. Kiiza said good governance ensures the rights of all artisanal miners.

Kiiza said in countries like Taiwan and Rwanda land registration has been done successfully but in Uganda it appears to be a problem. “How do we hold the duty bearers to account to citizens and protect their rights. How can government provide skills to artisanal miners,” Kiiza said.

Abdul Nasser, a senior lands officer in the ministry of lands, explained that land is not secure unless it is documented whether it has minerals, oil or gas or not. He said land challenges are similar whether it is in Mubende or in Karamoja.

Nasser said land and minerals are inseparable. “The minerals are found in the land. People who own land endowed with minerals have high expectations on how the minerals are exploited” he added.

The senior lands officer noted that in most areas where minerals are found, the land is customarily owned, and most of it is not registered. However, the ministry, Nasser said is organising communities into communal land associations and helping them to process certificates of customary ownership.

Fr Centurion Olaboro, chairman Inter Religious Council in charge of Eastern Uganda said the problem of leasing land to investors without consulting communities was increasing in Karamoja and eastern Uganda.

Olaboro said many investors owned factories for processing minerals in Karamoja and Eastern Uganda and the owners are not known.

“Who are the owners of these factories? They come set up factories and want to live in villages, they bring their people to settle with them,” Olaboro said.

Vincent Kedi, a principal mining engineer in the energy ministry and mineral development said they will continue to engage the artisanal miners so that they formalise themselves.

Kedi said government wants miners to form legal entities that can be registered and contribute to paying taxes and formal employment.

Dr Paul Bagabo, economist, from Natural Resource Governance Institute urged artisanal and small scale miners to set up big companies that get into large scale mining.

He noted that miners have to learn the new technologies were available for mining and what kind of jobs will be available in the mining sector in the future. “What kind of technology will be available in future? Will robots do the work? What if the technology becomes very expensive,” Bagabo said.

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