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Tororo Cement on Spot over Surface Rights in Moroto Mines

During the acquisition of the site at Kosiroi where limestone exploration has been ongoing for the past 18 years, the landowners had fled the place due to insecurity and any negotiations for surface rights agreement remained inconclusive.

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Residents of Tapac Sub County in Moroto district are up in arms against Tororo Cement Factory Limited over the failure to pay for surface rights in Kosiroi, a site where the company has been mining limestone since 2003.

Surface rights determine who owns the rights to the surface area of a piece of land, covering any structures on the property, and any above-ground resources such as trees, plants or water, according to the Mining and Minerals Act. The constitution provides that all land in Uganda is owned by the people while the mineral wealth beneath belongs to the government.

This implies that all exploration companies must obtain surface rights from landowners before any mineral license is granted. But During the acquisition of the site at Kosiroi where limestone exploration has been ongoing for the past 18 years, the landowners had fled the place due to insecurity and any negotiations for surface rights agreement remained inconclusive.

According to the local leaders, Tororo Cement only reached a loose agreement with the district leaders over the years but has no surface rights agreement with the landowners. The area where limestone is being exploited was under customary and communal land ownership, according to elders.

Now, the residents are demanding a negotiation with the company such that it pays for the surface rights on the Kosiroi mining site. They argue that the company must pay for the surface rights before the community can avail more land for its planned expansion.

Joseph Iriama, a resident of Katikekile Parish, where the investor is due to establish a stone crushing plant and a factory, says that they are not ready to give out another piece of land unless the company pays for surface rights at Kosiroi block.

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The renewed calls for payment of surface rights follows a request by Tororo Cement Limited to Moroto district to provide another 500 acres of land at Katikekile Parish for the establishment of a stone crushing plant and a cement factory. Currently, Tororo Cement Limited only exploits limestone and transports it to the parent factory in Tororo.

However, the request for 500 acres has sparked off a wrangle between the residents and investors. Joseph Pulkol, a resident of the area says that the investor must reach a comprehensive agreement on surface rights transparently if want to should continue business in Moroto.

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Last month, the company carried out surveys on the land before engaging with the community sparking protests from the community and landowners. Albert Lokoru, the Area MP accuses the company of using the ignorance of the elders in Tapac to acquire land in a non-transparent way.

Lokoru says the community is demanding the right procedure of acquiring land rights from the investor before it secures more land for a factory.

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Paul Lokoru, of the Peace and Justice Commission of Moroto Catholic Diocese, says that the community should be highly involved in the negotiations to avoid issues of misrepresentation and exploitation. He advised the Sub County leadership to identify a community land association that can represent the public interest for common good. 

John Achia, the Community coordinator for Tororo Cement Factory Limited says the company the investor is ready to compensate the landowners adding that the process is still in pipeline. Achia says the company wants to acquire more land but leaders are divided and misleading the community on otherwise well-intended development initiatives that will benefit the community and local government.

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