Former Busia RDC, Investor Deny Harassing Artisanal Miners

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Engineer Vincent Kedi, an engineer in the Directorate of Geological surveys and Mines, says that at some sites, the landlords gave Mustafa surface rights for 50 years and therefore, they were outsmarted by the investor.
Some of the artisanal miners, local leaders and police officers who interfaced with the committee. Parliament photo

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The former Busia Resident District Commissioner, Hussein Kato Matanda and a Turkish investor have denied harassing artisanal miners at Tiira gold mining site. The mines sit on 16 hectares of land in Siduka Sub County in Busia district.  It is home to hundreds of artisanal miners. However, two associations of artisanal miners have accused Mustafa Semih Gecgil, a Turkish investor and Matanda of harassment.  

The accusations came up during a meeting convened by the Natural Resources Committee of parliament on Saturday involving members of Busia United Artisanal and Small Scale Miners Association and Tiira Artisanal and Small Scale Miners Association-TISMA. The artisanal miners said their trouble with Mustafa started in 2017 when he allegedly connived with some leaders of TISMA to register it as a company and gained a stake of 49% on the location license.  

The Mining Act, 2003 provides that only nationals can get location licenses or own 51% of a mining company. TISMA claims that some members were left out of the deal and have since been denied access to the mining site. Mustafa allegedly fell out with the landlord, a one Monday Odima, who he claims gave him surface rights for 50 years after paying Shillings 150million. 

He sued Odima for fraudulently selling the same land to four other people despite signing an agreement that also gave Odima 50% of proceeds from gold sales. Mustafa blamed his trouble on a mafia led by a one Johnny Sasirwe that is manipulating landlords and artisanal miners to frustrate his investment.  

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The miners also accused Mustafa of having connived with government officials including Matanda to deploy the army at the Tiira mining site, a claim the now Kumi RDC has denied.

Matanda says he intervened in the matter after realizing that speculators and a mafia were using artisanal miners to threaten and also frustrate Mustafa from mining at the site. 

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In 2017, Matanda says he bought 50 shares worth Shillings 500,000 from TISMA Company and is thereby Mustafa’s business partner. He however, says this doesn’t not tantamount to conflict of interest because he has a right to do business as a Ugandan.

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TISMA Chairperson,  George Kwemboi told MPs that  Mustafa has harassed artisanal miners because of support from Matanda and outgoing Energy Minister, Irene Muloni. 

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Mathias Aroba, another TISMA member, says they have not mined gold this year because Mustafa sued three landowners including Umaru Opachet, Ali Odima and Monday Odima at Mbale High Court. The process is still going on.

Josephine Agutu, the TISMA Secretary of, says that most of the artisanal miners in Tiira are women, saying they fight Mustafa until they get back their mining rights.  She says the miners disagreed with Mustafa in 2017 when he manipulated some leaders in the association to register TISMA as a company.

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The artisanal miners agreed with Aroba that amidst their conflict with Mustafa, the Energy Ministry has never responded to their call for help.  However, Energy Ministry officials say TISMA gave 49% of its shares to Mustafa as a partner. 

Engineer Vincent Kedi, an engineer in the Directorate of Geological surveys and Mines, says that at some sites, the landlords gave Mustafa surface rights for 50 years and therefore, they were outsmarted by the investor.

Kedi says that TISMA members only informed the Ministry about the issue after disagreeing with Mustafa, adding that they cannot intervene because the matter is before court.

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The Committee members led by chairperson, Dr. Keefa Kiwanuka and his deputy, Andrew Kaluya however said that both Matanda and Mustafa should appear before the committee to respond to the allegations. Kaluya urged the miners to submit documentary evidence to the committee. 

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Kiwanuka says the committee will summon Mustafa and Matanda and engage the miners further to understand better what can be done to resolve the conflict. He however, noted that miners have not been keen on restoring pits, which could cave in in future. 

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Mustafa met Kiwanuka at Mbale Resort Hotel on the sides of a two day workshop to defend himself and Matanda. He also submitted some documents to prove that he has surface rights for Tiira gold mining site. 

Kiwanuka says that visiting Tiira gold mining site and engaging the artisanal miners will inform how they process three petitions from evicted artisanal miners in Mubende and Buhweju and Bulambuli where there is flooding due to open pits.

He however, lauded Busia miners for forming associations and also working smoothly with the police and local authorities. He says that in Buhweju and Mubende, police officers have been described as "mining police" for forcefully evicting artisanal miners and engaging in mining activities.