By: Phillo Aryatwijuka
The recent allegations on the failure by DAO Marble Africa Limited a mining company in Rupa Sub County in Moroto District over failure to pay over twenty employee salaries is an early eye opener for the budding Karamoja’s mining sector investments considering that over 64% of land in Karamoja is already under concessions .
The prospect of conducting an airborne geophysical survey is likely to make the region more lucrative for mining investments consequently bringing more mining companies in the region.
The question now remains how the government is prepared to ensure that these mining companies respect human rights, environmental rights and community rights at large.
At the recent Karamoja Mining Symposium Civil Society Organizations working on mining governance in Karamoja presented a civil society position with one of their key concerns being the lack of a clear framework for engaging private sector companies in the mining sector in Karamoja.
This concern was grounded in the various issues already expressed by mining communities in Karamoja citing the general lack of involvement of communities in different processes of licensing and acquisition of mining concessions by mining companies despite indigenous communities’ rights on participation and decision making.
Overtime communities in Rupa have been disgruntled citing that three years ago when DAO marble Africa Limited acquired a mining lease their expectations on the investment were high with the hope that they will benefit from the employment opportunities, infrastructure development, revenues, increased royalties and other benefits that accrue from such a big investment in their region.
It’s now three years of DAO Marble Africa Limited in Rupa Sub County and these allegations are setting a precedent of a mining company that has not lived up to its expectations by abusing the rights of people and host communities.
How else can we not call the failure of DAO to honor its salary obligations it owes to its workers a human rights abuse? Host communities are left wondering if these mining investments are worth the cost of destruction of their land and environment that is a source of their livelihood by huge excavations done by these mining companies.
Ultimately host communities feel letdown by the government and as such in need of urgent action. Now that DAO Marble Africa Limited top management have disappeared from the site as alleged, who will pay the unpaid wages for these workers? Which compliance mechanisms will the government put in place to ensure that in future mining companies’ employees’ rights are respected?
Looking back the recent Karamoja Mining Symposium envisioned a mining sector in Karamoja that is sustainable and as part of the recommendations to achieve that the CSO actors were emphatic on the urgent need to prioritize the amendment of the current legal and regulatory framework mainly the mineral policy 2001,the mining act 2003.
These should clearly streamline the framework for community engagement with the mining companies, strictly put in place regulations to monitor compliance of these companies to community rights, environment protection standards and compliance to tax.
In that way the government will enhance the development of a sustainable mining sector in Karamoja sub region.
The author is the Programme Officer,Ecological Christian Organisation