By Javura Twizukye
KABALE: Kamuntu Investment Uganda Limited under fire for mistreating Artisanal iron ore miners in Kigezi
Artisanal Iron Ore Minors in the Kigezi sub-region accuses Kamuntu Investment Uganda limited of hindering progress of the mining sector in the region.
Owned by Moses Kamuntu Mwongyera, the Rubanda West County Member of Parliament in Rubanda district, Kamuntu Investment Uganda Limited was awarded an exploration license in 2015 to buy and sell raw Iron Ore.
However, Artisanal miners say that despite Kamuntu Investment Uganda limited so far being the only company licensed to export iron ore mined from Kigezi Sub-region, it has instead become a hindrance towards the progress of the mining sector.
Under their umbrella “Kigezi Iron Ore Miners Association,” minors say that the company started well its activities until 2017 when it started exporting raw iron ore stones without paying her workers.
They say that Kamuntu Investment Uganda limited slashed the price of iron ore stones from shillings 150,000 to shillings 80,000 per ELF truck. (An ELF truck carries two tonnes of iron ore stones).
Narcis Bujune Kabatereine the Chairperson for Kigezi Iron Ore Miners Association together with his secretary John Barisigara revealed that the company has failed to pay the artisan miners since 2017 shillings 2billion.
They also questioned how the company that was only licensed to do exploration resorted to doing mining. They also fault Kamuntu Investment Uganda Limited of not hiding to the environmental protection guidelines an act they said was destructive to the nature and environment in the area and the country at large.
They also accuse the company of opening roads in people’s land in Hamurwa Sub County, Rubanda district and Nyakyonga in Kamugangzuzi Sub County, Kabale district to get access to the mineral deposits and have failed to compensate all the land owners.
Sikora Muharusya Tukahirwa and Legis Barisigara other concerned artisan miners from Hamurwa sub-county told this reporter that before Kamuntu Investment Uganda limited took over the export deal,
they were selling the mineral happily, but now she is working in arrears. She is demanding the company shillings 73 million the reason to why she is calling on government to come to their rescue.
Henry Wataga Turinawe, another artisanal miner from Kijuguta, in the Northern Division of Kabale Municipality says that in 2019, he invested all what he had to carry out mining hoping to reap to expectations unfortunately hopes have died after the failed to pay him shillings 29 million that includes his investments and profits.
He also sounded the need for government to intervene unless they will resort to staging a demonstration and apply mob justice. “We are tiered of lies”. Turinawe asserts
According to Pierre Mbabazi the Rubanda district deputy speaker has since to pledged to deal with the investor saying that in addition to revoking the license they would still go ahead and close all the areas the company is operating.
Mbabazi says there office was aware of the tricks the company used to hoodwink locals. According to him, Kamuntu lied to the locals that President Museveni was behind him an act that forced officials from the ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to intervene.
The intervention of the ministry was witnessed on Wednesday when officials led by Engineer Joseph Okedi the Assistant Commissioner in charge of Inspection and Monitoring from the Ministry of energy and Mineral Development held a meeting with the concerned miners at St. Johns Ikumba Catholic Church in Humurwa Sub County in Ruganda district. During the sharing meeting, an investigation into the matter was launched.
In attendance was the Rubanda district internal security officer Micheal Mmwijukye and the Assistant Supretentant of Police Barnabas Banyenzaki.
However, Kamuntu failed to physically show up for the meeting something that angered the miners.Kamuntu was represented by the company manager Bruno Byereeta and the company legal persons including Isaac Katumba Busobozi and Geofrey Mugema from Jema
Mr. Mugema, and Byereeta were tasked by the miners to produce a copy of powers of attorney to confirming to them that they were representing Mr. Kamuntu and after failing to do so, they were again asked to make a live phone so that the boss can himself to confirm his representation by the duo something that they did not do instead walked away.
Earlier, Kamuntu’s representatives denied all the accusations against the company saying that all the complainants had no evidence to prove their accusations.
Engineer Joseph Okedi, told the meeting the ministry was going to conduct a fact finding mission to investigate the true of the matter and once investigations are done, a report shall be presented and read to the miners also saying that revoking of the Company’s license would depend on findings from the investigations. Another meeting was scheduled for February 2022.