Busia, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Artisanal miners under their umbrella, the Uganda Association of Artisans and Small Scale Miners have accused the Mineral Protections Unit of engaging in illegal mining activities and harassing small scale miners.
The unit was created at the height of conflicts in the mining areas of Bisya, Engaju and Nsiika, among others, between the large scale miners and Artisanal and Small scale miners in August 2017. The conflict saw the small scale miners evicted from mines and territories they had occupied, both in Buhweju, Mubende and parts of present-day Kassanda district.
But the miners say that instead of regulating mining activities, the officers have acquired mining pits from where they participate in the activities they were created to control. They say that the officers, who are attached to various mining areas no longer care whether people in the mines are licensed or not for as long they can share profits with them.
In Busia District, the officers are accused of extorting money ranging between 500,000 to 1 million Shillings from every open cast for mining. It is also alleged that when the miners protested the actions, the officers joined the mining by dealing with the unlicensed artisanal gold miners and a group of gold dealers.
Bosco Bukya, the Chairperson of the Association, says that the Police which was supposed to protect the miners have since changed roles and taken over the role of allocating pits in the mining fields to illegal miners. Bukya says that they do not need the force anymore because it is now operating like a militia and facilitating organised crime.
Josephine Aguttu, the chairperson of Tiira Small Scale Minors in Busia district says that several officers attached to the Police Unit are involved in active mining and that some of them are owning pits, buying gold and promoting illegal mining.
Godfrey Kwemboyi, the chairman Tiira small scale artisanal gold mining association says that mineral police are doing more harm by allowing illegal gold mining where unlicensed groups use confined chemicals to extract gold which is harmful to the environment. He appeals to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to withdraw the officers from gold mining sites and bring experts from the geological department to induct them in good mining practices than police officers who are now in business.
Charles Olowo, an artisanal gold miner says that only a few operators are regulated to do gold mining but the remaining are operating as mineral police projects.
Sarah Opendi, the State Minister of Mineral Development told Uganda radio Network that it has become difficult for them to bring the Mineral protection Police to order because the ministry doesn’t supervise them. According to Opendi, the ministry is only waiting for the President and the Inspector General of Police to act against them while at the same time, pushing for the law to regulate the mining sector.
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