The UK government and companies are to offer a holistic approach to infrastructure development in Africa after the introduction of the Africa Infrastructure Board.
The UK Department for International Trade (DIT), UK government and private sector presented the Africa Infrastructure Board on the sidelines of the Mining Indaba in Cape Town, South Africa.
The Africa Infrastructure Board is an initiative that brings together and puts the case forward for choosing the UK as an ideal partner not only to develop projects in the mining sector but to create a holistic solution that will benefit the wider community by developing the associated infrastructure around the project.
The High Commissioner of UK to South Africa, Nigel Casey, mentioned that the UK would be increasing their efforts to work closer with African governments and private sector.
Mining projects are much more than just mining, he said, and they don't work without the associated infrastructure. Without naming names, he mentioned that the UK was conscious that there is plenty of competition out there when it comes to offering comprehensive solutions to African partners.
"We felt the need to up our collective game," he said, "and create a new government industry partnership called the Africa Infrastructure Board, which brings together all the players in the UK whether that is government through DFID, or UK Export Finance, one of our best kept secrets, or the deep pockets of the Commonwealth Development Corporation (CDC), and private sector operators, all operating in one single place to offer an end to end solution."
Oliver Andrews, Chief Investment Officer at the Africa Finance Corporation (AFC) who was one of the panellists during the roundtable, noted how DFID, the UK's government development arm, was instrumental in developing the model currently being used in infrastructure project financing.
He also reiterated the importance of the City of London, especially as most contracts are generally governed by UK law. The support network in structuring these deals, that is the legal, capital raising and technical side in London plays a vital role.
Craig Sillars from the Department for Trade showcased a number of projects where opportunities in the mining sector are being structured in a way that truly develops the infrastructure and act as a catalyst to develop other sectors.
The UK DIT, for example, is working with a UK investor in Angola on resurrecting an iron ore mine. But as well as the mine they are developing a smelter, which will ensure in-country beneficiation of natural resources, and that will involve the extension of an existing railways, and the expansion of a port.
"There will be 600MW of power attached to that," he went on to add, "and 25,000 of agriculture land provided grow biomass to help provide charcoal for the smelter."
Interestingly, he said that the UK was looking at partnering with China on the Simandou Mine in Guinea once they take over the mine to help them develop a holistic solution to develop the local infrastructure and sharing with them the designs they have put together to ensure a sustainable project that benefits the local community as well as getting the high quality iron ore to market.
"The approach we are taking," he told the participants, "is to produce masterplans that will benefit the communities not only for the next four to five years but the next 60, which is what we are doing in Angola, and that when the mining project is finished the infrastructure will continue to benefit the whole region."
Francis Gatare, CEO of the Rwanda Mining Petroleum and Gas Board, had said that most of the Rwandan involvement with the UK had been through government, but that private sector interest was growing.
It was agreed that London would continue to be an important hub for investors in mining and in infrastructure, not only as a financial centre, but also for the legal and technical expertise it offered, and that the resurging interest from the UK to Africa can only be a positive development for both the UK and the African continent.
The management of BUA Group has been using armed militia, soldiers and policemen to mine marble and limestone in mining sites allocated to the Dangote Group, the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development has alleged.
In a statement signed by the ministry's Permanent Secretary, Mohammed Abass, and made available, the ministry said the company had been using a combination of armed militia, soldiers and policemen to obstruct the ministry's team from executing the stop work order issued to the company in October.
The ministry's statement was in response to an open letter to President Muhammadu Buhari by the company alleging that a minister was involved in sabotaging its operations.
Abass said that in the records of the Ministry of Mines and Steel Development and the Nigerian Mining Cadastre Office, the BUA Group did not have a mining lease over the contentious site (No. 2541ML) and was therefore engaged in illegal mining.
He stated, "The ministry stands by the stop work order issued to the BUA Group and signed by the Permanent Secretary dated 17th of October 2017."
"The letter was issued after thorough investigation confirmed that the BUA Group was indeed engaging in illegal mining of marble/limestone at a mine pit located on geographical coordinates N070 21' 47.4' E0060 26' 51.8', while the run-of-mine is stockpiled at an area with geographical coordinates N070 21' 48.4'; E0060 26'37.2'."
"Clarification provided by the Mining Cadastre Office shows that the coordinates of the mine pit and RoM stockpile area fall wholly within the area of mining Lease No 2541ML belonging to Messrs Dangote Industries Limited."
Abass added, "The ministry had earlier in 2015 issued a stop work order on this same disputed site but the BUA Group disregarded the order and went ahead with its illegal mining activities, under heavy cover of armed soldiers, policemen and men of the Nigeria Security and Civil Defence Corps."
"The management of BUA also resisted the enforcement of the latest stop work order issued on October 17, 2017 using a combination of armed militia, soldiers and policemen to obstruct the team from the ministry in effecting the stop work order."
He added that the ministry would not compromise due process in its commitment to promote local and global investments in the Nigerian mining sector.
In a new move designed to reduce price and ease logistics inherent in the purchase of its products, the management of Dangote Cement Plc has signed a pact with the foremost e-commerce platform Jumia Nigeria to offer for sale its cement to customers online.
At the unveiling of the deal in Lagos, Dangote Cement, Key Account Director, Chux Mogbolu said Dangote Cement was happy to partner with online shopping giant, in a bid to make Dangote cement available with ease to customers.
According to the deal, Nigerians and corporate bodies wishing to purchase a minimum of 300 bags of 50kg of Dangote Cement and above can now order on Jumia from the comfort of their rooms at a reasonable price of N2,500 per bag as opposed to how much is sold in the open market and see them delivered to any place of their choice without any extra cost for transportation.
Mogbolu, however disclosed that the purchase would only be within Lagos, Port- Harcourt and Abuja for now.
He said: "Dangote Cement decided to work with Jumia Nigeria based on its credibility and excellent performance over the years in online shopping management", adding that the new initiative would help arrest the scams perpetrated by online fraudsters who deceived the people by asking them to come and purchase Dangote Cement for N1000 per bag.
"For now, the pilot scheme is live in Lagos, Abuja and Port Harcourt, but we can extend to other cities depending on the level of demand and performance of the new deal".
"With the deal, Nigerians in need of seamless supply of cement from Dangote can now place order and pay online and wait for the delivery in record time from any of Dangote's nearest cement plant to Lagos, Port Harcourt or Abuja.
"We are starting with Minimum Order Quantity (MOQ) of 300, 600 and 900. We may increase depending on demand surge as time goes on," Mogbolu explained.
Speaking on the deal too, Chief Executive Officer of Jumia Nigeria, Juliet Anammah said the deal with Dangote Cement is part of efforts to deepen service delivery on Jumia Nigeria online platform.
She said she was of the belief that the deal will be beneficial to all parties involved and deepen further online shopping in Nigeria as obtained all over the world.
The Jumia Nigeria boss reflected on the 2017 Black Friday Festival ran by her organization and said the Festival has attracted more than 14 million visits since the commencement of the campaign on November 13th.
According to her, "the annual sales event, which was initiated in Nigeria in 2013 by Jumia remains the busiest and largest shopping day of the year on both online and offline stores. This year's explosive Black Friday numbers demonstrates the increasing capacity and flexibility of the online retail space in Nigeria."
"We deliver to the 36 states across Nigeria, and are able to reach neighborhoods and shoppers who traditionally have not had access to a wide variety of products and deals. This year we also see the increasing interest in groceries and other FMCG products which reflect the increasing relevance of Black Friday to the average Nigerian."
Some key highlights of the 2017 figures presented by Jumia Nigeria in Lagos on Thursday showed among other things more than 1.9 million visits on Black Friday Big Bang. 14.4 million visits since the start of the sales event; Overall, 85% of all visits were made on a mobile device, compared to 72% in 2016; and 86,000 smartphones and counting have been sold in the past two weeks.
QGIAM, the private equity arm of Africa focused investment firm Quantum Global last week announced that on behalf of their investors, the sale of its interest in Savannah Cement, a leading Kenyan cement producer, has been completed following the receipt of regulatory approvals.
Quantum Global's investment was designed to support the cement producer on a number of value creation initiatives, including the development and launch of new products and the optimization of existing facilities.
Jean-Claude Bastos de Morais, Quantum Global's Founder and Group CEO expressed delight to have partnered with Savannah Cement in one of the critical industry sectors in East Africa.
He said they advanced together and aimed to close the existing infrastructure gap in Africa. “The exit from this investment is testament to the success of our approach of deploying capital in transformative sectors of key importance in Africa at the right time."
Martin Bachmann, Group Head of Active Management of Quantum Global, stated that the partnership with Savannah Cement and its management team created significant value and the two were involved in such a critical growth phase for the company. “Through its development of state-of-the-art products and technologies and its focus on the best use of green technology and on revolutionising environmental management in the cement industry, the company is well positioned to compete in an expanding marketplace, and we wish them continued success."
Quantum Global Group held the asset since 2015 through its USD 1.1 billion Infrastructure Fund, which is one of the most significant private equity funds in Africa solely focused on infrastructure developments.
Having started operations in 2012, Savannah Cement operates in a buoyant market driven by rising demand for cement products in a growing region. Savannah Cement is a state of the art, eco-friendly cement grinding plant with a capacity of 1.5 million tons a year, located in Athi-River, ca. 30 km from Nairobi. Successful in capturing several regional infrastructure deals to grow its market share, Savannah Cement quickly became a major regional player.
As part of the Infrastructure Fund, the Group so far has committed a significant portion of the capital for the construction of a deep-sea port in the Angolan province of Cabinda and for the development of an agri-processing plant for juice, water and wine processing and packaging geared towards the SADC region.
The Ministry Of Energy And Mineral Development is expediting a directive from President Yoweri Museveni requiring that they equip the mineral subsector with a modern laboratory to test, qualify mineral presence and determine its quality.
Speaking at the Ministry Of Energy And Mineral Development Joint Sector Review meeting at Speke Resort Munyonyo on Thursday, the minister Irene Muloni said they are progressing well. She revealed that they have repaired some of the old equipment and they are functional.
“We need the state of the art laboratory to be able to test the sample mineral that we pick from those areas. We need to assess the quality of those minerals, the percentage of this mineral contained in the ore so that further development can be carried out.
The laboratory that we currently have in Entebbe has some equipment which we have repaired. The ministry of finance allocated us Shs1bn to have the equipment repaired but in a period of three years, we should be able to have an ultra-modern laboratory."
The permanent secretary Robert Kasande said that for the midterm, they have budgeted Shs25bn to have the laboratory at its best. The lack of the lab has been a hitch for the mining sector as mining investors had to take mineral samples out of the country to do necessary testing.
No with own laboratory, Muloni said this will give them some sort of independence. Uganda has over 50 different minerals including rare earth minerals that the government and private sector have shown interest to explore and produce.
The other two president’s directives concerning the miing subsector are to register artisanal miners and build capacity of small scale miners and to ensure that commercially exploited minerals are declared for export through formal channels.
Indeed the ministry has moved to act on artisanal miners. Recently the ministry evicted miners from the Mubende Gold Mines leaving over 60000 gold miners stranded. The Minister speaking at Joint Sector Review said they are going to other mining camps to sensitize them and help them formalize their operations.
There is a big chance that hundreds of artisanal miners across the country will be evicted from their respective mining camps by government if they don’t formalize their operations by creating associations or working groups.
The minster for energy and mineral development, Irene Muloni, said at the ministry’s Joint Sector Review meeting being at Speke Resort Munyonyo that they won’t work with miners who are illegal and disorganized.
On 4th August, 2017, government deployed Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) and Police officers who evicted gold miners in Mubende. This time the ministry is engaging miners in Namayingo, Buhweju, Karamoja and other places.
Going by examples of places named, it looks like gold miners are targeted.
“You recognize that minerals are a wealth in this country. It belongs to all of us. We want to tap into these minerals and generate revenue for the country and improve our lives,” the minister said.
“We want to mine these minerals and add value. Gold occurs widely in this country. We want our ordinary Ugandans to participate in mining in a way that is legal so that we can track gold produced and how much revenue we can get,”
“These miners are not licensed and are using crude methods including using mercury and cyanide. They dig pits without caring about their lives. We are going to sensitize them about safety methods of mining that are not harmful to them and environment,”
The minister who spoke at this year’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Joint Sector Review welcomed artisanal miners and small-scale miners to organize themselves so that they are given location license.
The minister revealed that the investor manning the Mubende gold mines offered 10sqkms to artisanal miners. The land is going to be demarcated and allocated to three miners associations out of the five who were formed during the time they were being told to vacate and relocate.
Muloni said evicting Mubende miners was necessary because of the dangers these miners had exposed themselves to. “We also had foreigners mining Ugandan resources,” she said. At least 172 foreigners, according to the minister, were operating in Mubende.
One of the issues that come up during engagements between government and artisanal miners is miners lack money to invest in technology required. However the minister said they will try to build their capacities once they form association.
Uganda is home to over 50 minerals however only eight percent of the country has been surveyed. The other twenty percent, which is largely the Karamoja region, was not surveyed because of security reasons.
The private sector during the recently held Mineral Wealth Conference organized by Uganda Chamber of Miners and Petroleum asked the finance minister Matia Kasaija to avail USD20m so that Karamoja is surveyed.
Kasaija asked them to put their request in writing so that it can be considered in the subsequent budgets.
Every year, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and industry stakeholders meet to review and assess the ministry’s overall performance and progress of planned undertakings in the previous financial year.
The Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP) chairperson Elly Karuhanga has emphasized the need to make Uganda a mining hub so that it can transform into a middle income country, a target the current regime of President Yoweri Museveni is aiming at.
Karuhanga was exclusively speaking to journalists ahead of this year’s annual Mineral Wealth Conference (MWC), to be held on October 4th and 5th, 2017, at Kampala Serena Hotel under the theme “Minerals – “Knocking on the door to cause economic transformation in Uganda.”
“We need to make Uganda a mining country so that when you mention Uganda anywhere in the globe, they say oh that mineral rich country that is exporting a lot of minerals,” Karuhanga said enthusiastically.
“Yes, we are known as an agricultural country, fantastic, I love it, even hearing it feels good, but suppose we become an agricultural country and mining country and oil and gas country and a tourism destination country, this generation will be so happy,”
He said the Chamber was formed ‘to propagate and sensitize the people of Uganda and international community to take interest in Uganda’s minerals and exploit them together with foreigners and amongst ourselves.’
He also emphasized the need to enable investors to carry out exploration works in the country to establish the amount of mineral resources in the country. He explained that the country is putting in place the necessary laws, policies and regulations to manage the mining sector.
This year’s mineral wealth conference is looking at opening up Uganda for business. About 1000 guests are expected to attend. Sponsors of the conference have lined international speakers from governments and the private sectors
The year 2017 was another challenging year for South Africa's mining industry in light of a decrease in dividends and market capitalisation, various retrenchments across the industry, and marginal increases in taxes paid.
However, spot price increases for bulk commodities supported the industry and resulted in a return to profitability after the first substantial increase in revenues in five years. These are some of the highlights from PwC's ninth edition of SA Mine, a series of publications that highlights trends in the South African mining industry released by PwC last week.
Michal Kotzé, PwC Africa Energy Utilities & Resources Leader, says: "The 2017 year can be described as a year of policy uncertainty and real questions over the long-term sustainability of the industry."
"After the price lows of December 2015 and January 2016, the current year saw USD prices recover for most commodities with the exception of platinum. Although some USD price gains were offset by a stronger rand, the improved prices did bring the industry as a whole back into profitability."
Despite an improvement in the financial performance of the industry, regulatory announcements in June 2017 resulted in market capitalisation dropping to June 2015 levels.
A subsequent recovery at the end of August was aided by improved USD prices and hope by investors that the suspended new Mining Charter would be revised before final implementation. In this edition, we have also included a brief look at the regulatory changes in Nigeria, the DRC and Tanzania.
The 2017 financial year saw a decrease in the market capitalisation of the companies analysed to almost the low levels of 2015. The market capitalisation of the 29 companies analysed in this report decreased to R420 billion, a 25% decline from R560 billion as at 30 June 2016. Market capitalisation recovered somewhat to R506 billion as at 31 August 2017 on the hope that there would be an amicable solution between the industry and the regulator.
Contribution by commodity
Coal maintained its strong position as the leading South African mining commodity revenue generator. Despite its percentage of revenue generated remaining unchanged at 27%, it increased total revenue to R119 billion from the prior year's R105 billion.
Platinum group metals' (PGMs) share of total revenue decreased to 22% from 24% as total PGM revenue decreased by R2 billion to R94 billion. Gold's share of mining revenue decreased to 16% from the 18% in 2016. In contrast, iron ore's share increased to 11% from 9% due to a R10 billion increase in revenue.
Revenue increased by 13% (R43 billion) from the prior year. "It is notable that this is the first substantial increase in more than five years," says Andries Rossouw, PwC Assurance Partner.
The gold companies' revenue increased by 17% (R23 billion) due to improvements in USD gold prices and a weaker rand for most of the reporting period. The platinum companies have seen revenue increases by 4% from the prior year on the back of improved platinum prices for parts of the year.
Operating expenses increased by R13 billion, which is a 5% increase from the prior year. Continued low commodity prices have resulted in another year with significant impairments in the industry, with a total of R22 billion in impairment provisions. More than R100 billion was impaired over the last three years, more than wiping out the last two years of capital expenditure in the industry.
After last year's net loss the companies in this year's analysis are back into a net profit position due to lower impairments. The EBITDA margin of 26% is 6% higher than the previous year.
"It is encouraging that all commodities improved their EBITDA margins. However, the low platinum EBITDA margin (12%) is still a significant concern and threatens the sustainability of a number of operations," Rossouw adds.
Labour still accounts for the majority of mining companies' costs, accounting for approximately 44%. Labour costs increased by 4.5% which was marginally below inflation.
Integrating risk into business strategy
In the last number of years we have not seen a significant change in the risks identified by mining companies. These include: volatile commodity prices and foreign exchange fluctuations; the regulatory, political and legal environment; socio economic environment around mines; sustainable business plans or budgets; labour relations; operating costs; reliance on third-party infrastructure; employee safety and health; liquidity and capital management; and compliance with environmental standards.
In 2017, the risks have remained relatively consistent with three companies also including cybersecurity and its consequences as a risk.
Safety in mines
According to safety statistics, the level of safety has improved substantially in the industry, with fewer fatalities reported over the past 10 years. This is indicative of investments made by mining companies in safety initiatives.
Value to investors in the mining sector
The mining industry continues to add value to all its stakeholders. As reported in company value added statements, employees still take the lion's share of value added at 40%, followed by the Government through direct taxes, payroll and royalties with 19%. It is disappointing to note that shareholders got only 2% in the form of distributions.
Adoption of emerging technologies in the mining industry
Technological advancements have spurred innovation and new ideas in the mining industry. A number of mining companies have adopted emerging technologies. The use of remotely-piloted as well as autonomous drones to survey opencast mines is a common example of the adoption of emerging technology. Mines are also using autonomous drilling, proximity devices, collision awareness systems for mine vehicles and trucks, cloud and mobility solutions.
Illegal mining activities
The value of illegal mining and dealing of metals and diamonds in South Africa is estimated to be more than R7 billion per year. The South African gold sector has been the most adversely impacted by illegal mining within the industry, according to the companies included in our study.
The Chamber of Mines has emphasized the need for mining houses, the DMR and the South African Police Service to work together at every level of illegal mining activity from individuals working underground to the large syndicates that organise activity and sell the end product.
Mining in Africa
The growth in the DRC mining sector since 2002 has been facilitated by the commodities boom, attractive tax and customs incentives, greater stability and an improved regulatory environment. By the end of 2016, 482 companies held mining rights, compared to 35 in 2002. The production of copper amounted to 1.035 billion tons at the end of 2016 versus 27 259 tons in 2002. Cobalt production achieved 69 038 tons at the end of 2016, versus 11 865 tons in 2002.
Despite various challenges the Government has taken a number of steps to make the mining sector more attractive for investment by putting in place clear regulatory policies and operationalising existing ones. There are still a number of challenges in the sector ranging from insufficient infrastructure as well as regulatory conflicts. The Nigerian mining sector realises it needs to align itself with world trends and norms, especially around the future demand for various minerals.
In 2016, the Tanzanian Government introduced fundamental changes to the income tax regime for the extractive sector. June 2017 saw significant changes for the sector, even more fundamental than the 2016 changes. The broad objective of the new legislation is to seek to obtain a higher return to Tanzania from its natural resources.
The theme for this year’s annual Mineral Wealth Conference (MWC), to be on October 4th and 5th, 2017, at Kampala Serena Hotel, speaks out the organizers desires to see to it that Uganda’s minerals play a role in the country’s economic transformation.
The theme for the 6th Mineral Wealth Conference organized by Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP) in partnership with the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development is “Minerals – “Knocking on the door to cause economic transformation in Uganda.”
“In previous forums, our focus was mainly on showcasing Uganda’s mineral potential, advocating for value addition and attracting exploration investment. This was all geared towards creating a conducive and favorable environment in the mining sector,” says Dr Elly Karuhanga, the Chairman, UCMP.
“We feel the time is now for Uganda to start earning significant revenues from its natural resources. Fortunately, our patron President Yoweri Museveni, who has always advocated for the addition of value to our minerals, will be in attendance to lend his significant weight to this drive.”
Uganda enjoys a wealth of mineral deposits including gold, vermiculite, copper, graphite, iron ore, tin, tantalite, tungsten, nickel, platinum, graphite, limestone, phosphates, clays with rare earth elements just to mention but a few.
Some of these resources, like the vermiculite in Eastern Uganda, which competes favourably with South Africa's in both quality and quantity, are world class deposits. However, they have not been fully exploited mainly because extensive exploration countrywide has not happened yet.
A 2015 Uganda Bureau of Statistics (UBOS) report noted a 6.3 percent increase in the total value of selected minerals produced, growing from Ushs158bn in 2013 to Ushs168bn in 2014.
These numbers though, are significantly low. Industry watchers for instance believe that the right support can see Uganda easily become the world's leading vermiculite producer within the next 5 to 10 years.
With the mining policy and laws undergoing a review to match the private sector needs, stakeholders are optimistic that this potential will soon be realised.
The annual MWC is East Africa’s flagship mining convention; playing a significant role in highlighting the huge untapped mining potential of Uganda and the region.
The conference will attract expert speakers and over 450 delegates from across the globe including South Africa, West Africa, the USA, Canada, China, the United Kingdom, Australia, Brazil, Belgium, the African Minerals Development Centre (AMDC), the World Bank and the African Development Bank amongst others.
To be held at the Kampala Serena Hotel, an entry pass is going for $300 for nationals and $500 for international delegates. The forum will also include an exhibition on the sidelines with booths going for $1,000.
A diverse mix of delegates is expected to attend led by mining stakeholders, drawn from the private and public spheres, development partners, financial institutions, insurers, academicians, lawyers, logisticians, energy and construction companies amongst others.
Mr. Robert Kasande, the new Permanent Secretary, Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, Dr. Kabagambe-Kaliisa, a senior presidential advisor on oil and gas and minerals and Mr Edwards Katto, the Director, Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines, will be among the speakers at the October conference.
On 4th August, 2017, hundreds of Uganda Police Force and Uganda People’s Defense Force (UPDF) officers armed for war descended on villages in Sub Counties of Kitumbi and Bukuya in Mubende district with express instructions to evict and put an end to activities of small scale gold miners in the district.
The orders were issued by government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development and the Directorate of Immigration. The soldiers and police officers have not left the mines, a month later. The Mining Act and Policy and related land laws don’t favor miners, some of whom used to own land in the gold rich area now being occupied by security forces. The laws of Uganda state that minerals belong to government.
Former ministry of Energy and Mineral Development Permanent Secretary Stephen Isabalija, before being fired last month, said evicting miners was necessary to stop illegal mining, environmental degradation, crime and to restore order for a regulated mining business. The Immigration Department was supposed to deal with foreign illegal miners.
The presence of soldiers and police lurking is felt moment you enter Lujinji village in Kitunbi Sub County. They have condoned off the mines and made them inaccessible for any mining business apart for a licensed ‘mzungu’ investor who occupies mines on a hill hundreds of meters away from the Lujinji mines.
Security forces commanded by Col Joseph Balikuddembe, the UPDF 1st Division commander evicted about 60, 000 artisanal gold miners and dealers occupying Kampala, Mukapya, Mukikade, Mukabada, Ewalukwago, Lubaali and Kamusenene gold mines. They proceeded to erase houses that were providing shelter to miners.
Gold Mining In Mubende
The actions of government have burned out the candle of hundreds of artisanal miners who depended on Mubende. The contingent of miners in Mubende came from almost all parts of Uganda once it was known in 2008 that the district which was predominantly agrobased had huge commercial deposits of gold. Even President Yoweri Museveni encouraged them to dig up the mineral when he was on a campaign trail.
Gold in Mubende attracted experienced artisanal miners from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), Tanzania, Rwanda, Kenya and other countries to come and make a kill. The experience brought by foreign artisanal gold miners made gold extraction easy. Money started to flow, endlessly.
The more gold that was extracted from Mubende and the more money that was being made increased the more government got aware and interested. Government's first worry was the high number of unregistered foreign miners extracting and selling Ugandan gold but not paying taxes to government despite making loads of money. This influx, according to government officials, influenced the decision to evict the miners.
Numerous negotiations between miners and government over the years have yielded no positive result for miners who knew they were living on borrowed time and that it would soon be depleted and they would be evicted.
Zziwa Edward Amooti Birungi, the Deputy Chairperson Mubende District Local Council said in an interview last week said government then laid a strategy to evict all these foreign miners so that they can go back to their countries.
The eviction didn’t spare Ugandans too as everyone was asked to vacate the mining camps and return to wherever they came from. Indigenous residents of Mubende district were evicted from the mining camp too and not allowed to return to the camp but remain in their homes and to also find other jobs.
While foreigners could run back to their countries, hundreds of Ugandans were left jobless and with shuttered lives as Josephine Bashaba, 32, married and a mother of four children explains.
“I couldn’t fail to get food, school fees and money to take my children to hospital whenever they fell sick. God had blessed us,” Bashaba, who used to own various gold pits and rental houses, narrates revealing that the lowest amount she could make a day was Shs50, 000.
“MPs have told us that the mines will be opened but seeing what is happening, it will not be so we are planning to go back to our villages.” a withdrawn Bashaba, who migrated from Masaka district, southern Uganda, to make the gold gifted Mubende her home said. She was looking for anything of value in the ruins of what used to be her work station demolished by the army.
Joblessness, Crimes Looms Over Mubende
Zziwa, also Mubende district secretary for production, marketing and natural resources explained during a visit to his office by journalists coordinated by Global Rights Alert, an NGO working to promote good governance of Uganda's natural resources, said that mines offered employment to youth who now are now idle and might turn to crime to survive.
“Many people were jobless but went to be employed in the mines. Because of the mines they were able to take care of their families. Now, after the evictions, people are loitering everywhere doing nothing yet some had been evicted from their land.” zziwa stated.
Munir Kiryowa who works as Community Based Monitor for Global Rights Alert (GRA) shares Zziwa’s concerns. “Some former miners are still here idle; they might even start stealing and robbing people. Reports of missing motorcycles are beginning to emerge,” Kiryowa, also working with police as a crime preventer, said adding that people came from as far away as Busia in eastern Uganda, Mbarara, Ntugamo in southern Uganda to work in the mines.
He explained that jobs and businesses were lost and that people lost their property because they were not given enough time to move away. Gold buyers licensed by government had SACCOS and Kiryowa reveals that they were not given time to collect money from their clients who were working in the mines.
Matters are not any better for Alex Ssentale who was born in Lujinji village. He supplied food, water and other services to the miners in Lujinji. Ssentale, who dropped out of school in primary two, and now is 27 years old, has no skill to enable him get a job. His only source of money to take care of his young family has been the mines which are no more.
"We welcomed people in this village and we were happy to sell them our food and other things they demanded as they worked in the mines, survival was easy but now we are doomed as you can see,”
We had not prepared for this, he says, explaining that they had not prepared their gardens for the planting season because they were earning a living from the gold mines. “We feel bad but we have nothing to do,” a lamenting Ssentale says.
Like the case is for most mining communities, children find themselves offering cheap labor to support their families. Paul Byakatonda who studies at Victoria Primary School in P2, he looks 11 or 12 years, visibly old for his class, has been a sweeper in the mines. A venture which earned him averagely Shs20, 000 per day; money she used to buy books and pay school fee since his father, a miner, had abandoned the family.
He had saved some money and bought a pig, making him one of the youngest prospecting entrepreneur farmers in the village, now his source of income was erased shattering his baby dreams.
Martin Lubega, 25, and a senior four dropout was another miner affected by the evictions despite investing about Shs40m in the mining business together with his five friends. He says he lost the money just like all other miners who were evicted.
We didn’t rescue anything; he utters the words with sadness explaining that they have been a family in the business of mining gold. “Some people sold their land and cattle or acquired loans from banks and money lenders to invest in the mines. We don’t want government help anymore; they are the same people who are making us cry.”
Like Lubega, Sula Kisungula, who was tipsy in the afternoon sun, lost everything, looks dejected and hopeless. He probably finds solace in taking alcohol since he has a lot of time and idle. Kisungula blamed leaders of associations they had created for conniving with government to hoodwink them. ‘They should have warned us.” he laments saying they have nothing left.
Dirisa Ssenyonyo has however not lost all the hope, he now wants government to give a small part of the mines to small scale miners and tax them so that they can continue with their business alongside the heavy moneyed investors.
One of the many mothers whose life depended on the mines Jalia Mbabazi noted that she has never seen what was done the day the army and police stormed the village to drive miners out of the mines.
She blames the leaders of Mubende because ‘they were notified but they didn’t tell us so government thought that we had refused to vacate the mines. If they had notified us, we would have saved some of our properties.
UPDF Protecting Uganda’s Minerals
Lt Col. James Kasule, Uganda People’s Defense Forces operation commander, whom we found at the camp in his brief to the journalists who visited the mines said they came to evict people from the illegal mining area to prepare way for those licensed to come and do business.
"We are here to protect minerals of Uganda which was being stolen by foreigners. By the time we came, political leadership and other authorities had done the talking and all negotiations. We can’t be blamed for being here and protect the minerals of Ugandans.
The operation to drive out the artisanal gold miners was a joint operation with Uganda Police. SP Alex Muhumuza of Uganda Police Force in his brief said the miners 'knew they are here illegally and temporary that is why you see no permanent structures'.
"As security organs, we have no problem with any Ugandan or foreigner who come here in Uganda legally. We are here to protect them. Our coming here was in phases involving local government and parliament and guided by the law.
Over 70 foreigners were arrested and imprisoned for illegally dealing in gold. Muhumuza says Ugandans were dealing in petty businesses while foreigners were taking gold illegally.
The officers denied allegations that they mistreated people when evicting them. While many people we talked to said they were not harassed by the soldier, one youth should journalists wounds he claims were inflicted on him the soldiers. Earthfinds couldn’t verify the claims.
President Museveni long time friend and former bush war hero Ms Gertrude Njuba, a former employee of State House reportedly owns 8 square Miles of land in Mubende gold mines and has interests in the AUC Mining and Gemstone International Ltd,the two companies having explicit interests in Mubende Gold. The Energy ministry is not clear on who owns the licences for the Mubende mines.