Angry residents of Osukuru hills in Tororo district are resisting the works of a Chinese company Hui Neng Mining Ltd, which was offered a mining lease by the government of Uganda to explore multiple minerals on Osukuru covering Osukuru and Rubongi sub-counties over compensation issues.
The government entered a joint venture with the company to see the implementation of the long awaited US$560m Sukulu Phosphates project in Tororo district in Eastern Uganda. It will prospect for Base Metals, phosphates, rare earth elements-REE and Uranium on the 26sqkm in Osukuru hills over a period of three years.
Under the Project, the Chinese company will utilize the Tororo Phosphate reserve to produce 300,000 tons of phosphates fertilizers, 300,000 tons of steel and 2million tons of residual soil. They will also establish of a sulfuric acid plant with a capacity of 200,000 tons annually and also build a 5MW power plant in the area.
Although the project was embraced by the district authorities earlier, residents are perturbed by the development following the investor’s failure to meet their demand. They are accusing the investor of abandoning an earlier agreed position of leasing and not selling their land. As a result affected residents have not been adequately compensated.
A total of 12,000 people are threatened with eviction when the exploration work starts this month.
According to Hui Neng, the Chinese company’s project Manager, their efforts are being frustrated by the beyond market rates set by the residents as their compensation.
However, Okumu John Patrick, the General Secretary of their umbrella body ‘Osukuru Rubongi Land Development Advocacy Association’ (ORLDAO) faulted the investor for going through the land brokers to reach the affected families instead of going through the association as earlier agreed.
But Hui Neng informed the Tororo deputy RDC Bob Stanley Opio in a meeting that they are ready to negotiate directly with the affected residents but they need security and support from the local leaders so that they don’t lose money to fraudsters in this project.
The investors want the local population to be sensitized by the district authorities on the entire exploration process arguing that if the standoff persisted, they will set up their camp site elsewhere. He said the camp site is to help them establish the quantities of minerals in the gazetted area before they could apply for the mining lease.
However, the deputy RDC Bob Stanley Opio asked the Chinese firm to address the key issues raised by the resident’s especially fair and appropriate compensation of the affected people, so that they can be able to attain public support in their work.
Opio wants all land transactions between the investor and the locals to be documented, and witnessed by all members of the family including wives and children above 18 years to avoid family wrangles.