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Kiboga Gold Rush Throws Residents into Panic

On the ground, the gold miners have pitched camp on one part of the marshland, which has since become their base for the ongoing survey and mining activities. A close observation from the sites in the marshlands shows several pits that have already been dug up and another chunk of land has been cordoned off.
Salongo Lukka Musoke showing one of the pits dug by the gold miners in Kiboga District
Residents of Busanyi Village in Kiboga District are living in panic, amidst a looming eviction from their land after the discovery of gold in the area.

It is alleged that prospecting gold miners, under the Kiboga United Artisanal Miners and Processors’ Association started surveys in December digging a number of pits without negotiating with the sitting tenants for any form of compensation.

On the ground, the gold miners have pitched camp on one part of the marshland, which has since become their base for the ongoing survey and mining activities. A close observation from the sites in the marshlands shows several pits that have already been dug up and another chunk of land has been cordoned off.  

The area is now heavily guarded by armed personnel in civilian wear. Tents have been erected at the base, which is now surrounded by artisanal equipment and solar-powered lights.

Several residents who declined to be named said that the gold miners started their survey in December soon after a launch ceremony at Busanyi Village Centre where they also unveiled Kiboga United Artisanal Miners and Processors Association. They say that they have since been asked to stop cultivating on the same land or face repercussions.  

Godfrey Kabogozza, one of the residents of the village said that gold was discovered in Busanyi Village and some areas of Muwanga Village but none of the people sitting on the land has been compensated. He said that the gold prospecting investors have since pointed out the specific areas but no negotiations nor compensation plans have been effected despite digging pits in the area.

Nalongo Cecilia, another resident said that she was told her land is one of those targeted for gold mining and that although she was promised compensation, there is no formal process to bring this to fruition. Similarly, Lukka Musoke, one of the people whose land is affected by the excavations said that meetings were held by the mailo land owners and the gold miners where they promised compensation to those who will be affected by the mining activities but without commitment letters.

But in an interview with URN without divulging details about the people behind the gold mining project, the area Local Council Chairperson Jimmy Ssegujja said that the landlords worked with some high profile persons- who discovered gold in the area.  

“The owners of the mailo land dealt with some high profile people and acquired exploration permits and license to mine gold and they started an association,” Ssegujja said adding that the association has since co-opted some people from the village.

He said that currently, the miners have started their work on a very low scale using hoes and spades and that the gold miners promised to negotiate with the claimants to have them compensated appropriately for their land, once the activities take shape. He added that the area where the camp was placed was agreed upon with the landowner.

“…they cannot compensate anyone before confirming that there is gold and once there is no gold, they cover the pit and move on to searching other areas,” he explained. According to Ssegujja, the miners are focusing mostly on the wetland areas, in one village before expanding to other areas.

Muwanga Sub County Chairperson Fred Ssemmuli said that he has also received calls from residents complaining about the looming eviction but insisted that the mining company promised to compensate only those people whose land will be used.

“They promised to hold discussions with people on land but they are still making samples. I am not sure at what stage discussions will be made by the holders but they promised to compensate everyone,” he said in a telephone interview.

In a separate interview, Abdu Nasser Ssemakula, the chairperson of the Association said it is still premature for people to make claims against the company because they are still surveying.

“We held sensitization meetings with the occupants on the land and invited security personnel with district officials to inform them that only those people whose land or parts of their areas shall be utilized for gold mining will be compensated,” Ssemakula said, adding that they cannot start compensating people before confirming the existence of gold in the area.

According to Ssemakula, currently, no one is affected by their activities and no harm has been caused by the surveying activities.