Monday, June 04, 2007

Mean Spirited Mining in Africa (2)

Mining Company to Displace ThousandsThe Monitor (Kampala)
NEWS
4 June 2007
Posted to the web 4
June 2007
By Glenna GordonTororo

"How about this hill? Who is the owner of this hill?" asked Jimmy Kisara, a member of Nilefos Minerals team surveying Sukulu Valley residents. The team was assessing the value of the residents' assets before the company starts mining phosphates from the mineral rich area, displacing between 8,000 and 10,000 people."It's mine, from this side," Abdu Kakande replied, pointing in the distance to the rising slope behind the cluster of houses and patch of banana trees. "Where is madam? Sometimes she knows things as well," interjected Local Chairman David Okurut, present at the survey to make sure everything goes smoothly and his constituents' property is duly accounted for.

Mr Kisara ignored the comment and continued with the survey. " Your address?" he asked. "This very place," said Mr Kakande, motioning towards the ground that would soon no longer be his. Mr Kisara soon asked Mr Kakande to produce a land title, but he had none."I am born here, and my grandparents left this land for us," he said. "But what will I leave for my children?" Nilefos Minerals is a subsidiary company of the Madhvani Group, which owns Kakira Sugar.The first phase of investment for the company will cost between $120 and $150 million. It will take three to four years. The returns are expected to yield between 17 and 18 per cent. "Not dynamically profitable but good for Uganda and good for us," says Nitin Madhvani, President of Madhvani Group.Nilefos Minerals and the Madhvani Group are leasing the land from the government. Although the 1995 Constitution gave the land back to the people, the government maintained land rights because it had interests in the land.According to the boundaries mapped, on the 26 square kilometre area, even the sub-county headquarters must be relocated. "The sub-county office will have to be rolled away," Mr Madhvani said. He said all the residents were squatters.

"The people have surface rights to the land, but the mineral is for the State," Minister of State for Lands Kasirivu-Atwooki Kyamanywa, said. According to Article 26 of the Constitution, the people must be compensated.

While Nilefos is currently conducting the survey to asses the value of people's land and assets, the government will also do an independent survey, says Mr Kasirivu. However, they have not as of yet established a timeline for this action.

More people will be affected by Nilefos Mineral's digging than were affected by previous phosphate mining company Tororo Industrial Chemical and Fertilisers' work. Due to Uganda's extreme population growth over the past decades, the number of people living in the valley has burgeoned.

Nilefos Minerals has promised to compensate residents for their land. "There is a procedure by law and the rights of citizens will be upheld," Mr Madhvani said.

Residents, however, are wary of this promise. "There is no alternative if the government says go. If the government finds something to do here and says move, we have to move. But we have to be meaningfully compensated. If you can't even afford an acre, what will you do?" asked Eridad Opudai, a resident of Sukulu Valley.

It is unclear how many jobs will be created and who will get those jobs. Mr Madhvani claims that the factory will employ 1,000 people in its initial stage and up to 2,000 as it expands, with 10 times as many jobs created indirectly for total employment impact.

What those jobs are and if they are sustainable, however, remains to be seen. The factory itself will clearly not employ as many people as it will displace. "Obviously, displacing people bothers me," said Mr Madhvani. "But on the other hand there's a valuable mineral there that needs to be exploited. Should national development be thwarted permanently?"

"Where does one go after eviction? You have your children, your property, you've grown up here. Where do you go? Even if we are given money, where is the land to be bought? If we have lived as a unit, a family, or a clan, the clan will be disorganised." Akello Arosa, 60, who breaks rocks along with her family, said.

Copyright © 2007 The Monitor. All rights reserved.

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