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UPDF, Police Deploy in Mubende to Stop Illegal Occupation, Mining

Miners are seen sieving gold crystals from Muddy water in Bugiri 348km (216miles) east of Kampala, Uganda’s capital on February 5, 2013. The miners mix crushed excavated soils with mercury which forms a mixture with gold. It’s later heated to separate the gold. The gold is sold to local brokers who in turn market it to the international market. Reuters/Edward Echwalu

A joint UPDF and Police led operation to stop illegal occupation and mining in Mubende district has started in areas of Kitumbi and Bukaya sub-counties, Mubende district.

The deployment follows a discovery by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development about the prevailing influx of people amongst which are foreigners from neighboring countries and beyond that are involved in illegal mining in the named areas.

Government findings show that the activity has affected the health and safety of the people living in these areas.

Dr. Stephen Isabalija, the permanent secretary of the ministry in an earlier statement, said that the presence of the foreigners in these areas is a threat to the locals as well as the mining sector since they are using rudimentary machines in the process which are harmful to the environment.

Dr Isabalija explained that the miners are using mercury and cyanide to process gold, which chemicals on draining in water bodies affects human health.

It is against this background, Brig. Richard Karemire, the UPDF spokesman says in a press message that the intervention supported by Uganda police Force, Uganda Peoples’ Defence Forces, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control was called for.

Reports show that most of the foreign nationals involved in these irregular actions are Chinese, Congolese, Rwandese, Burundians, and Tanzanians among others.

These groups, Brig. Karemire says, have “neither operating licenses nor satisfactory immigration documents”, which “is a security risk as unlawful elements and dissidents such as ADF, M23, Interahamwe and other negative forces can use this as a sanctuary to cause insecurity in Uganda.”

UPDF, he added, is playing a supportive role to Police who will participate in this exercise to ensure there is a peaceful, proper relocation, settlement and identification process.

Mubende District has become a hub for gold mining, and the miners have been leaping profits from the gold business without paying taxes, leading to loss of government revenue.

The eviction, according to energy ministry officials is intended to bring order in the gold mining and increase government revenue, according to energy ministry officials.

In order to address the above mentioned problems, government under MEMD will register the local miners in the same areas and organize them into groups which will be easy to regulate.

Generally, there is a rise in gold business in the country with information showing that at the end of 2016 gold exports rose to $336m (Shs1.2 trillion), rivalling coffee, making gold the first single export that has come close to coffee in many years.

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