Include compensation in the new mining and mineral amendment bill, says LoP

The Leader of Opposition [LoP], Mathius Mpuga has asked the government to consider the question of compensation when amending the tabled mining and mineral bill in parliament.

The mining and mineral bill was approved by the cabinet in April 2021 to effectively implement the tenets of the 2018 mining and mineral policy.

According to Hon. Sarah Opendi, the Minister of State for Mineral Development, the mining and mineral bill will repeal the outdated Mining Act, 2003 to streamline the mining sector in the country.

While addressing journalists in Mbarara, Mpuga confirmed that the motivation to traverse Kigezi and Ankole sub-regions was to inform legislators’ understanding of the prospects of mining. This would inform their decision to amend the mining and minerals bill in parliament next week.

The Leader of Opposition [LoP] together with some members of the shadow cabinet including; Joyce Bagala, Abdul Bwanika, Winfred Nuwagaba concluded three days of field visits in the districts of Kabale and Buhweju to explore the artisan miners’ operations.

As opposition in parliament, we contend that some of the considered amendments are likely to affect people already involved in mining, says Mpuga.

“You are aware Kigezi and Kabale, in particular, are endowed with plenty of iron ore, wolfram, gold, tin, and other minerals. Most of this endowment is hosted on private land. Therefore, the proposed legislation in its current form will negatively impact private miners because they don’t have licenses but have been surviving using the informal crude technology,” said Mpuga

Hon. Mpuga also reported that it was unfortunate for the Members of Parliament to be blocked from accessing gold mines in Buhweju district.

“It was unfortunate that we were blocked from accessing the gold mines in Buhweju,” LOP said.

Whereas the constitution says all underground minerals are owned by the government on behalf of the people, the Leader of Opposition asked parliament to consider the compensation of landowners in the amendments.

“If the government wants to own such mines, they should compensate the owners of land containing such minerals. It should not be like the situation in Bunyoro where locals were cheated by private investors,” said Mpuga.

Hon Mpuga insisted that he will not support the contentious long-awaited Mining and Minerals Amendment Bill 2O21 if it does not favor the artisan miners.

Francis Mwijukye, area MP Buhweju revealed that the poor locals in the mines should freely benefit from the natural resources.

“The poor people in the mines desire to benefit from our God-given resources and as politicians, it’s our duty to support them but not to undermine, scatter and deprive the locals. So, the question for us is to defend their right to a decent economic life to support their families,” said Mwijukye

He further added that the Leader of Opposition’s visit to Buhweju was timely to save the cheated miners by investors in the area.

Part of the mining and mineral bill spells penalties, sanctions punitive fines on illegal mining, and non-performing mineral rights for both small scales, medium and large-scale artisan miners.

“Citizens caught mining without permits commit an offense, according to the draft, one is liable to a fine of one billion shillings or imprisonment not exceeding seven years or both, upon conviction. The bill also provides for a fine of Shs100 million to miners using hazardous substances such as mercury or imprisonment not exceeding three years or both,” reads part of the bill.

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