Residents of Busoga sub region who are going to be affected by the mining and production of Rare Earth Metals – REM have asked the Government to exhibit transparency in land compensation.
The call follows the confirmation of viable deposits of Rare Earth Elements – REE, also known as the rare earths the largest Ionic Adsorption Clay – IAC, stretching 40 kilometres across Igombe Sub County in Bugweri; Bulamogi and Nakigo in Iganga, Imanyiro and Buwaaya in Mayuge Districts.
Discovered in 2016, the rare earth elements estimated at 532 million tonnes in clay ore deposits are essential for the manufacture of medical equipment, smartphones, laptops, crude oil processing, batteries for electric vehicles, and wind turbines among.
Codenamed ‘The Makuutu Rare Earths Project’, the project derives its name from Makuutu Sub-County in Bugweri District in recognition of where it was discovered. The mineral deposit ranks among the largest known ionic adsorption clay outside of China.
Warren Tregurtha, the Chief Executive Officer of Rwenzori Rare Metals – RRM, a private company licensed by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to carry out the mineral prospecting and exploration of ore revealed that the actual mining will begin in 2024.
However, tempers are flaring on the ground as landowners are crying foul following the involvement of dubious individuals brokering land sale deals in anticipation of high returns from the Government land compensations.
Jane Nalongo, 30, a resident of Buwaaya parish in Mayuge District told URN that her six other siblings are being forcefully evicted by the Sub-County Chief backed by some security operatives after their land was illegally surveyed.
Through their area MP, Abdu Katuntu, the aggrieved residents who include cultural and religious leaders sought audience with Ruth Nankabirwa, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development to seek clarity about their land compensation process.
Jamada Kasisa, the Local Council One Chairperson of Makuutu village in Bugweri Sub-County says the brokers, mainly Government officials, are on a rampage forcing residents to sell off their land arguing that the Government will take over their land without compensation.
In response, Nankabirwa, on Monday visited the area to interact with the Project Affected Persons – PAPs and assured that the Government is undertaking the due legal diligence that will be followed to ensure the residents are compensated.
The Minister disclosed that her Ministry is yet to engage Government valuers to undertake the scrutiny of the land being occupied by the affected households before they are compensated to allow for the extraction to commence.
Based on the provisions of the Mining Act 2003 and Mining Regulations 2019, Rwenzori Rare Metals is required by the government to apply and acquire a mining lease through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development before it can compensate/resettle affected landowners to develop the rare earths deposits.
In order to obtain the Mining lease, the company must undertake a feasibility study, conduct an Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA), obtain consent from landowners to access the project land, and develop a Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) that will be used to mitigate the probable resettlement impacts to the project affected persons.
The objective of the RAP is to provide resettlement options that suitably allow them to continue their livelihood and activities. The options include outright acquisition involving outright cash compensation for a mutually acceptable amount.
Temporary resettlement that will allow land owners to lease land to the Makuutu Project for an agreed period of time, compensate the landowner for lost assets, and affected households will be provided with a good house in a newly established nearby resettlement village.
The third option include permanent resettlement; swap land for land, permanent replacement house and suitable replacement land, cash compensation for lost assets and provision of the necessary support to assume a better social-economic standard than before.
Last option is paying a retainer fee that involves a periodic sum of money that will be paid to PAPs whose land is affected but who have not yet signed the compensation agreement. This is to allow PAPs a regular income as they wait to be resettled.
Uganda is eyeing to take a pole position in rivalling China as the world’s leading commercial producer of the rare earth elements which is projected to spur Uganda’s economic transition from fossil fuel to renewable energy and uplifts people’s livelihoods.
Further, the Makuutu Rare Earths Project is expected to lead to the industrialization of Uganda and position the country on the international stage as one of the very few countries in the whole world which is currently dominated by China.
It is estimated the world has 99 million tonnes of rare earth reserve deposits. China tops the list for mine production and reserves of rare earth elements, with 44 million tons in reserves and 140,000 tons of annual mine production.