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Illegal miners to spend five years behind bars

Illicit mineral miners with no certified licences in Uganda will have to rethink their strategies, after the nation today Friday woke to the news of passing the Mining and Minerals Bill 2021.

The bill was passed yesterday by parliament to legitmize the crackdown on illegal miners with no licences, and also streamline the mining industry in the country.

According to the bill, illegal miners once netted will be required to pay Shs. 1 billion, or spend five years in jail, or both.
The penalties were lessened from two billion to one billion, and from two years to one year, contrary to what they were, when the bill was tabled to parliament last year.

The chairperson of the Parliamentary committee on Environment and Natural Resources Dr. Emmanuel Otaala, while presenting the report on the bill to parliament, said the penalties in the bill need to be lessened, citing the need to ensure justice and fairness.

“We are proposing that paragraph “a” be ammended by substituting one hundred thousand currency points with fifty thousand currency points, and imprisonment not exeeding ten years, with imprisonment not exeeding five years….and the justification is to avoid giving very very stringent penalties,” said Otala.

Other legislators like Kefa Kiwanuka, the Kibiga East MP were not in agreement with the new fine levied on the would be illegal miner convicts.

He said that the fine should further be reduced from one billion to Shs. 500 millions, due to the fact that there are artisanal miners who apply rudimentary methods, and are too poor to pay the stipulated fine.

“The penalty of one billion is really too high, so when talking about the fine we need to cut to, to divide it into two. There should be a fine for small scale miners, and the fine for bigger companies. I dont think that they can both pay the same,” said Mr. Kiwanuka.

This line of thought attracted sharp backlash from several legislators like Dickson Kateshumba, the Sheema MP, who said the fine should be mantained, arguing that illegal miners have cost government huge sums of revenue earnings.

Deputy Artoney General Jackson Kafuuzi told parliament that legislators should not be blindfolded that artisanal miners have no money, saying they are too rich with mass affluence, and that they even own mining firms through which their illegal transactions are conducted, valued in billions.

“I want us to acknowledge that yes we have artisanal miners…..but also know that behind some artisanal miners there are very big operators who hide behind them. So if we say artisanal miners we exempt them, every big operators will hide underground and operate as artisanal miners behind,” said MP Kateshumba.

Parliament also suspended a clause in the billl by government, which granted powers to the Minister of Energy and Mineral development, to ban for 5 years, anyone convicted of illegal mineral extraction, citing the redundancy of double penalties.

The bill will also see the establishment of the Uganda National Mining Company which will manage the government’s commercial holding and participating interests in mineral agreements.

It also mandates the National Mining Company to hold 15 per cent free equity in all large and medium mining ventures, as well as have the right to pay up 20 per cent extra shares in the mining ventures at the commercial rate.

Do you have a story in your community or an opinion to share with us: Email us at editorial@watchdoguganda.com

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