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  • EACOP ESIA: Vehicle collisions, fire, oil spills & sabotage top the list of risks

    The Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the East African Crude Oil Export Pipeline (EACOP) project, lists accidents from vehicle collisions, fire, in-land oil spills and sabotage among the top risks the project faces. The ESIA report was submitted to the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) for review and subsequent approval (after stakeholders share their views and input). In July 2019, NEMA invited the public to submit their views on the report either in writing or during public hearings. The report was prepared by Total East Africa Midstream BV – an affiliate of French oil giant, Total SA.

    Other potential impacts from unplanned events include: earthquakes and landslides according to the report. According to the report, vehicle collisions will likely cause injury or mortality to members of the public, workforce, livestock and or physical damage to community assets, structures or even project assets. In order to mitigate the potential impacts, the report proposes the establishment of transport and road safety management plan.  According to the report, the anticipated vehicle collisions, could lead to spillage of transported fuels or chemicals causing contamination of soil and water with toxicity affecting living organisms. It proposes to put in place an emergency preparedness and response plan.

    The crude oil export pipeline is expected to traverse 9 districts of Hoima, Kikuube, Kakumiro, Mubende, Gomba, Sembabule, Lwengo, Kyotera and Rakai. In these districts, the pipeline will traverse 22 sub-counties, 4 town councils, 41 parishes and an estimated total of 172 villages and hamlets. “The main source of livelihood in these areas is agriculture and most settlements are concentrated along national and secondary roads. Settlements often have a central trading place,” the report ESIA report notes. 

    “Religious structures are the most common cultural heritage with a physical local and strong intangible sensitivity, including four churches within 100 metres of the pipeline footprint, and three cemeteries, two of which are within the project footprint and a third within 100 metres,” the report reads in part. It is not clear in the report whether the churches and cemeteries will be relocated.

    In the report, it is proposed that during the construction phase, several measures will be put in place to mitigate and minimize the negative impacts of the project to the host communities. “During the construction phase of the oil pipeline, local community offices will be established at locations along the route to provide stakeholders direct access to community location coordinators, community liaison officers and grievance officers,” the report proposes in one of the mitigation measures.

    It further adds, “The Resettlement Action Plan (RAP) team will continue stakeholder engagement throughout the resettlement process. The grievance mechanism will continue to provide opportunities for stakeholders and potentially affected communities to express grievances about the project activities.”

    The report anticipates conflicts mainly related to land and property valuations. In order to mitigate and minimize such conflicts the report proposes that the EACOP project has and will continue to establish a non-judicial grievance handling mechanism to respond to the stakeholders’ concerns and facilitate resolution of stakeholders’ grievances.  The grievance mechanism will be compliant with the United Nations Guiding Principles on Business and Human Rights effectiveness criteria for project–level grievance mechanism.

    EXPECTED ENVIRONMENTAL IMPACT

    According to the report, the pipeline project will have minimal environmental impact. “Direct operational emissions in Uganda will range from 11 – 18,000 tons of carbon dioxide equivalent per year throughout the 25 year project life,” the report reads. This represents around 0.029 percent of Uganda’s total greenhouse gas emissions in 2030.

    “The contribution of the EACOP to national emissions is therefore low and will not affect Uganda’s ability to meet its emission reduction targets under the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change’s Paris Agreement,” the report concludes.

    In terms of cumulative impacts of the pipeline project, the report highlights the expected economic boost due to employment, training and purchasing associated with not only the EACOP project but the Kingfisher and Tilenga projects too.

    The report calls for setting up of several management plans to mitigate and minimize the potential negative impacts of the projects. These include plans for the management of labour, project induced in-migration, community health and safety, soil, biodiversity, pollution prevention, cultural heritage, resettlement action plan, stakeholder engagement and waste management among other management plans. However, none of the plans and or plan structures are annexed to the ESIA report.

    by: Edward Ssekika,Edited by Muhumuza Didas

  • Govt to conduct public hearings for the Kingfisher oil project

    Extractives Governance Project Coordinator Didas Muhumuza speaking to the media about youth engagement and involvement in the oil sector at a recently ended Pakasa Forum organised by ActionAid Int. Uganda and other partners.

    AAIU to conduct pre-hearing and community engagements to prepare communities to engage government

    The Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) will next week(19th-21st June, 2019) hold a Public hearing for the Environmental and Social impact Assessment for Kingfisher oil project among affected communities.

    “The public is further notified that there will be two public hearings Wednesday 19th June 2019 at Rwemisanga primary school in Kyangwali subcounty in Kikuube district and Friday 21st June 2019 at Kabaale primary school in Buseruka subcounty in Hoima district from 9am to 5Pm” a public notice released by PAU this morning reads in part.

    The public hearings will be held in accordance with the National Environmental regulations 1998.

    The hearings bring together the developer and relevant stakeholders to express opinions and offer suggestions on the proposed project to influence the decision making process during the review of the ESIA.

    The Kingfisher oil project is located on the south Eastern side of Lake Albert in Buhuka parish, Kyangwali subcounty in Kikuube district.

    In 2012, Government awarded an oil production license to CNOOC Uganda Ltd to develop and operate the Kingfisher oil field.

    Funders

    The project will be funded by CNOOC Uganda, Total Exploration and Production Uganda (TEPU), Tullow Uganda Operations Pty Ltd (TUOP) and Uganda National Oil Company which represents Uganda’s business interests in the oil industry.

    The project component includes development of four well pads that will hold 20 production oil wells and 11 water injection wells.

    The project will have a Central Processing facility (CPF), flowlines to transport well fluids from production wells to the CPF.

    The project will also have a 46kilometre-long feeder pipeline to transport crude oil from the CPF at Kingfisher field development area to a delivery point located at Kabaale parish in Hoima district.

    The design of the project indicates that the project will have camps to host oil workers, a materials lay down yard, a jetty, and airfield and infield access roads.

    PAU is yet to announce the presiding officer of the hearings. However, the first hearings for the Tilenga oil project were presided over by Dr Fred Kabagambe Kaliisa, a former permanent secretary in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral development.

    “PAU’s role as a regulator is to ensure that oil and gas activities create value for the country and more so to the host communities. The ESIA process is also meant to ensure that all views of stakeholders are known and addressed. So we welcome feedback” Gloria Sebikari, a manager of corporate affairs and Public relations at PAU told oil in Uganda.

    CSOs petition

    On 14th May, fifteen civil society organisations led by the African Institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO) wrote to the National Environmental Management Authority (NEMA) expressing reservations about the Kingfisher oil project.

    “The undersigned CSOs note with concern that the Kingfisher project area is an area with critical ecosystems including Lake Albert, Bugoma Central Forest Reserve, Kamansinig River, River Nile and others. The project area also has communities that entirely depend on fishing for food, income and other critical aspects. The project must therefore be handled with utmost care and Uganda’s laws must be abided by to avoid or minimize oil impacts on the environment and communities” the petition which was delivered to NEMA on 14th May reads in part.

    The Non-Technical Summary (NTS) of the Kingfisher oil project ESIA report states that the mitigations for the social and economic impacts of the land acquisitions under the Kingfisher project and resettlement activities shall be in the Resettlement Action Plans (RAPs). However, CSOs observed that  these RAPs are not part of the Kingfisher ESIA report.

    If the RAPs are not part of the current ESIA report, it means that the developer presented an incomplete ESIA to NEMA and therefore any comments will be based on incomplete reports, the petition signed off by the AFIEGO Chief Executive officer Dickens Kamugisha.

    “This is contrary to the objective that necessitated Uganda’s shift from the Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) regime to the ESIA regime. Undertaking and reviewing an ESIA requires that one assesses the environmental and social impacts of any proposed project as one component” Kamugisha who is a lawyer, says.

    The Kingfisher ESIA report notes that a road will be constructed through Bugoma forest to support the Kingfisher oil project activities. In addition to the roads, a feeder pipeline for the Kingfisher project, the East African Crude Oil Pipeline (EACOP), an airfield in Buhuka and other infrastructure are being planned.

    “These developments will open up the forest in particular and the oil region at large to an influx of people who will migrate to the oil region in search of jobs and other oil related opportunities. This will negatively impact on local community livelihoods and will result in degradation of Bugoma forest. Consequently, there will be a reduction in income from tourism and the role Bugoma forest plays in the provision of water to the entire catchment will be compromised” the CSOs stated.

    The CSOs asked the developers of the Kingfisher oil project to present detailed plan with a budget, work plan and timelines to show how the Bugoma central forest reserve will be protected from the direct and indirect dangers of oil exploitation.

    The ESIA report indicates that millions of cubic metres of water will be extracted from Lake Albert for oil activities.

    “However, there is no framework for addressing conflicts over the utilisation of the Lake Albert waters and other resources such as fish by DRC and Uganda. The two countries continue to conflict over the boundaries of the lake. With the proposed extraction of huge amounts of water from Lake Albert by the Kingfisher oil project, it is not clear how the DRC will react to the decision considering that Uganda and DRC have in the recent past been conflicting over Lake Albert to the extent that since discovery of oil in 2006, some people including a Heritage Oil company Engineer have been killed on the lake due to conflicts” the petition said.

    ActionAid to conduct pre-hearings

    ActionAid International Uganda will hold sub pre-community engagement sessions to enable better preparation for meaningful participation and involvement of community members in the public hearings and other subsequent processes.

    These shall be held in Hoima, Buseruka, Kikuube and Kyangwali districts starting 18th to 20th June 2019.

    According to AAU’s Extractives Project Coordinator Didas Muhumuza, AAIU has carried out such engagements before in Buliisa that created real time debate, a move that PAU, NEMA and the oil companies appreciated and equally engaged to ensure that communities are satisfied with possible benefit from the sector.

    Oil in Uganda correspondent in Bunyoro

  • Ministry of Energy launches Biometric Registration of ASMs in Uganda

    A landmark event in the mining sector of Uganda as the country positions extractives industries as the engine for social and economic development saw the launch of the biometric registration of artisanal miners’ project on 29th March 2019. The project is geared towards formalizing and regulating the activities of ASMs in the country to realise and actualize their developmental role in the sector as Uganda works towards achieving her development agenda as enshrined in the Vision 2040. Speaking at the launch, Hon. Peter Lokeris, State Minister for Minerals Development noted that government recognizes the development role of the ASM sub-sector, which must be well organized to realize its full potential. Engineer Vincent Kedi, the Acting Commissioner for Geological Survey and Mines, hailed the different Civil Society Organizations that are working with the sector to make it better. He hailed ActionAid Uganda for coming on board to work with government to harness the potential of the sector through supporting vital efforts like today’s event and those aimed at organizing ASMs in Uganda. Mr. Don Biniyina, Executive Director of Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy, which was contracted by government to implement BRASM, noted that the event was a special one for artisanal and small-scale miners as it has come as a result of protracted negotiations with government through the ministry to formalize ASMs that have for long been referred to as illegal. He noted that it also marks an important day for ACEMP as the implementers of the project. Mr. Didas Muhumuza, the Coordinator for Extractives Governance work at Action Aid Uganda, that supported the launch of the event but also mobilized ASMs from different regions to attend, reiterated that just as AAU’s mission is to support marginalized communities to fight social injustices, the organization is committed to continually support the artisanal and small-scale miners in their struggles and work together with government to harness the potential of the ASM sub-sector. He also pointed out that AAU champions the domestication of the African Mining Vision (AMV), which was assented to by Heads of States and Governments under the African Union in 2009. The AMV provides for among other key aspects the formalization of ASMs and protection of their rights and livelihoods. The launch of BRASM by MEMD was supported by ACEMP (as the implementer of the project) in partnership with ActionAid International Uganda(AAIU).

  • NEMA reviews environmental concerns over Tilenga project

    The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is seeking public comments on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the Tilenga oil project.

    The name Tilenga is derived from two local names for the Uganda Kob (Antelope) which is called “Til” in Acholi and “Engabi” in Runyoro-Rotoro.

    A notice which has been pinned on public notice boards in Buliisa district indicates that NEMA received the ESIA from Total E&P Uganda and Tullow Uganda operations Pty Ltd for the proposed Tilenga project.

    Under the Tilenga project, the Government through its licensed oil companies has discovered commercially viable oil deposits north of Victoria Nile in Murchison falls national park and south of Victoria Nile in Buliisa district.

    The project includes jobi-Rii, Gunya, Ngiri, Kasemene, wahrindi, Nsoga, Kigogole oil fields. Composition According to the project documents which oil in Uganda has seen, the Tilenga project is composed of well pads, a central processing facility and other associated facilities, production and injection network of pipelines and cables, Bugungu airstrip, Tangi operation camp, a water abstraction system, victoria Nile crossing, river Nile pipe crossing and some roads.

    The project also includes temporary construction camps, construction support base, a logistical check point in Masindi and borrow pits.

    “The public is further notified that the outcomes of the public review will contribute towards making a final decision of the project in accordance with the Environment impact assessment regulations” a notice released by the NEMA Executive director Dr Tom Okurut reads in part.

    According to the notice, members of the public have been asked to submit their comments by November 9th 2018. CSO Petition 13 civil society organisations have asked NEMA to hold public hearings to enable locals have an input in the studies.

    “It is through public hearings that oil host and affected communities, the poor, marginalised and illiterate will be able to make comments on the ESIA to enable NEMA make a decision based on the collective input of all concerned stakeholders” the CSOs said in a joint letter to the NEMA executive Director.

    According to the CSOs which are working to prevent the impacts of oil on biodiversity from Buliisa, Hoima, Kasese, Greater Masaka, South Western Uganda and Kampala, they are concerned that in the notice, NEMA did not indicate that it will call for public hearings before making any decision on the ESIA.

    The concerns of the CSOs are contained in a letter dated October 17, 2018 which was submitted to NEMA by the AFIEGO Chief Executive Director on behalf of the CSOs.

    The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations of 1998 mandate NEMA to call for a public hearing where there is controversy or where a project has trans boundary impacts, the CSOs argued.

    “The Tilenga oil project is controversial and will have trans boundary impacts. The project’s activities will include drawing of water from Lake Albert, whose boundaries remain a challenge between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It should be noted that even the existence of many agreements including the Uganda Zaire 1990 Agreement, the 2007 Uganda-DRC Ngurdoto Agreement and others whose main objective was to address the peace and security challenges in the Uganda-DRC border areas through among other things providing for a framework for benefit sharing and conservation of shared resources such as the Lake Albert waters, fish and others have failed to achieve lasting results” Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive officer of the Africa institute for Energy Governance(AFIEGO).

    The CSOs warned that if the Tilenga project is not well handled, it may worsen the conflicts and loss of lives as well as environmental destruction in Uganda and the DRC.

    “We need public hearings to ensure effective public consultations that can build consensus not only among Ugandan stakeholders but also stakeholders across the borders who are likely to be affected by the Tilenga project” said Kamugisha, a lawyer.

    The CSO stated that available evidence indicates that NEMA has the skills and interest to do a good job but it cannot effectively play its role amidst weak and outdated laws.

    It is unfortunate that for over four years, government and parliament have failed or ignored the need to complete the enactment and formulation of the new environmental laws such as the National Environment Bill of 2017, the draft EIA and Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) regulations of 2017, the Uganda Wildlife Bill and others. Without such relevant laws to among other things improve NEMA’s independence, funding, penalties for environmental offenders, the CSOS stated in their five-paged petition to NEMA.

    It is especially unfortunate that todate, as government and oil companies are finalising major oil decisions that will have long lasting environmental and social impacts, there is no specific provision in our current laws including the 1995 National Environment Act, the Uganda Wildlife Act and others that specifically provides for NEMA to reject oil activities even in the most critical biodiversity areas such as Lake Albert, River Nile, Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls National Park, and others of national and international importance, the petition which was received and stamped by NEMA on 18th October reads in part. Demands

    “NEMA should use its powers not to issue any certificate of approval for oil projects as a condition to force parliament and government to complete the new environmental laws and regulations” the petition stated.

    The CSOs have asked government to establish a multi-stakeholder committee comprised of actors from government, the private sector, religious and cultural groups, CSOs, the academia and others to act as an independent multidisciplinary oversight body to promote compliance with environmental conservation tools such as EIA, SEA, ESIA.

    The CSOs have further asked NEMA to delay any decision to issue a certificate of approval for the Tilenga ESIA until the new environmental laws and regulations are put in place by government and parliament. This will help the country to stop engaging in oil activities based on a weak and outdated environmental legal framework, the petition added.

    The CSOS that petitioned include the Africa institute for Energy Governance (AFIEGO), National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE), Environmental Conservation Trust of Uganda (ECOTRUST), Guild Presidents Forum on Oil Governance (GPFOG), Center for Constitutional Governance (CCG), South Western Center for Policy and Advocacy (SOWIPA), World Voices Uganda (WVU), Community Transformation Foundation Network (COTFONE), Greater, Green Organisation Africa (GOA)-Masindi, Oil Refinery Residents Association (ORRA)-Hoima, Kakindo Orphans Care-Buliisa, Girl Power foundation-Kasese, Friends of Nature-Kasese.

    By Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro

  • NEMA reviews environmental concerns over Tilenga project

    The National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) is seeking public comments on the Environmental and Social Impact Assessment (ESIA) report for the Tilenga oil project.

    The name Tilenga is derived from two local names for the Uganda Kob (Antelope) which is called “Til” in Acholi and “Engabi” in Runyoro-Rotoro.

    A notice which has been pinned on public notice boards in Buliisa district indicates that NEMA received the ESIA from Total E&P Uganda and Tullow Uganda operations Pty Ltd for the proposed Tilenga project.

    Under the Tilenga project, the Government through its licensed oil companies has discovered commercially viable oil deposits north of Victoria Nile in Murchison falls national park and south of Victoria Nile in Buliisa district.

    The project includes jobi-Rii, Gunya, Ngiri, Kasemene, wahrindi, Nsoga, Kigogole oil fields. Composition According to the project documents which oil in Uganda has seen, the Tilenga project is composed of well pads, a central processing facility and other associated facilities, production and injection network of pipelines and cables, Bugungu airstrip, Tangi operation camp, a water abstraction system, victoria Nile crossing, river Nile pipe crossing and some roads.

    The project also includes temporary construction camps, construction support base, a logistical check point in Masindi and borrow pits.

    “The public is further notified that the outcomes of the public review will contribute towards making a final decision of the project in accordance with the Environment impact assessment regulations” a notice released by the NEMA Executive Director Tom Okurut reads in part.

    According to the notice, members of the public have been asked to submit their comments by November 9th 2018. CSO Petition NEMA 13 civil society organisations have asked NEMA to hold public hearings to enable locals have an input in the studies.

    “It is through public hearings that oil host and affected communities, the poor, marginalised and illiterate will be able to make comments on the ESIA to enable NEMA make a decision based on the collective input of all concerned stakeholders” the CSOs said in a joint letter to the NEMA executive Director.

    According to the CSOs which are working to prevent the impacts of oil on biodiversity from Buliisa, Hoima, Kasese, Greater Masaka, South Western Uganda and Kampala, they are concerned that in the notice, NEMA did not indicate that it will call for public hearings before making any decision on the ESIA.

    The concerns of the CSOs are contained in a letter dated October 17, 2018 which was submitted to NEMA by the AFIEGO Chief Executive Director on behalf of the CSOs.

    The Environmental Impact Assessment (EIA) Regulations of 1998 mandates NEMA to call for a public hearing where there is controversy or where a project has trans boundary impacts, the CSOs argued.

    “The Tilenga oil project is controversial and will have trans boundary impacts. The project’s activities will include drawing of water from Lake Albert, whose boundaries remain a challenge between Uganda and the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). It should be noted that even the existence of many agreements including the Uganda Zaire 1990 Agreement, the 2007 Uganda-DRC Ngurdoto Agreement and others whose main objective was to address the peace and security challenges in the Uganda-DRC border areas through among other things providing for a framework for benefit sharing and conservation of shared resources such as the Lake Albert waters, fish and others have failed to achieve lasting results” Dickens Kamugisha, the Chief Executive officer of the Africa institute for Energy Governance(AFIEGO) said.

    The CSOs warned that if the Tilenga project is not well handled, it may worsen the conflicts and loss of lives as well as environmental destruction in Uganda and the DRC.

    “We need public hearings to ensure effective public consultations that can build consensus not only among Ugandan stakeholders but also stakeholders across the borders who are likely to be affected by the Tilenga project” said Kamugisha, a lawyer.

    The CSO stated that available evidence indicates that NEMA has the skills and interest to do a good job but it cannot effectively play its role amidst weak and outdated laws.

    It is unfortunate that for over four years, government and parliament have failed or ignored the need to complete the enactment and formulation of the new environmental laws such as the National Environment Bill of 2017, the draft EIA and Strategic Environment Assessment (SEA) regulations of 2017, the Uganda Wildlife Bill and others. Without such relevant laws to improve NEMA’s independence, funding and penalties for environmental offenders, NEMA can hardly operate rightfully.

    ‘It is especially unfortunate that todate, as government and oil companies are finalising major oil decisions that will have long lasting environmental and social impacts, there is no specific provision in our current laws including the 1995 National Environment Act, the Uganda Wildlife Act and others that specifically provides for NEMA to reject oil activities even in the most critical biodiversity areas such as Lake Albert, River Nile, Budongo Forest, Murchison Falls National Park, and others of national and international importance,” the petition which was received and stamped by NEMA on 18th October reads in part. Demands

    “NEMA should use its powers not to issue any certificate of approval for oil projects as a condition to force parliament and government to complete the new environmental laws and regulations” the petition stated.

    The CSOs have asked government to establish a multi-stakeholder committee comprised of actors from government, the private sector, religious and cultural groups, CSOs, the academia and others to act as an independent multidisciplinary oversight body to promote compliance with environmental conservation tools such as EIA, SEA, ESIA.

    The CSOs have further asked NEMA to delay any decision to issue a certificate of approval for the Tilenga ESIA until the new environmental laws and regulations are put in place by government and parliament. This will help the country to stop engaging in oil activities based on a weak and outdated environmental legal framework, the petition added.

    By Oil in Uganda correspondent, Bunyoro

  • Panyimur, Nwoya residents’ tales of oil discovery impacts

     

  • Leaders in Oil Rich Districts Want a Special Fund to Monitor Oil and Gas Activities

    Waiga village is one of the areas that is being claimed by the pastoralists

    Globally, oil and gas activities are known for its degrading and destructive effect on the environment. In Uganda, there are already fears that oil and gas activities in the Albertine graben could destroy the fragile ecosystem. This calls for increased close monitoring and early mitigation measures to be put in place.

    District leaders from the oil rich Albertine graben want government to establish a special fund dedicated to helping district environment officers to routinely monitor the impact of oil and gas activities on the environment and undertake early mitigation measures.

    Bulisa district chairman Mr Agaba Simon Kinene  said, “As a district, we are implementing oil and gas industry at zero budget, yet we are decentralized,” he said.

    The oil production phase, is expected to generate a lot of hazardous or non- hazardous waste. Therefore, district environment officers are expected to take a center in ensuring that all the oil waste generated and pollution are properly managed.

    As Uganda prepares to started oil production, a lot o  is preparing for  District Environment Officers (DEOs), have often complained of lack of facilitation to monitor oil and gas activities.

    Mr Philip Ngongaha, the District Environment Officer, Bulisa was bolder and called for the establishment of a fund to help them monitor oil and gas activities. He said currently, district environment officers lack facilitation to do their work. “We need a special fund to facilitate oil and gas monitoring,” Ngongaha argues.

    He argued that the fund would help the environment officers acquire modern equipment for monitoring. “You cannot expect an environment officer to monitor noise pollution using naked eyes. We require modern equipment,” he said.

    The leaders were speaking at an oil and gas conference organized by Advocates Coalition for Development and Environment (ACODE) at Imperial Royale Hotel in Kampala last month.

    He argues that given the environmental concerns that are expected to come with the petroleum sector, it is important to allocate enough resources to monitor any changes in the environment and make early mitigation measures. “Local environment committees provided for under in the law but are not in existence,” he said.

    “I wish to concur, we need a special fund for environmental officers, to monitor these activities otherwise, we shall keep taking when the environment is being depleted” Paul Mulindwa, the Program Coordinator, Kibaale District Civil Society Organizations Network said.

    Presenting a paper on the impact of oil and gas on local government, Nwoya District Chairman Mr Patrick Okello Oryema wondered how district environment officers monitor oil and gas activities without being facilitated to do their work.

    However Ms Aijuka Sarah, the Environmental Monitoring Officer in charge of Oil and Gas at the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) explained that the authority is already drafting the National Oil Spill Management Regulations and contingent plan.

    “We already have oil waste, but we are still lacking regulations on how to handle the oil waste,” Ms Aijuka explained. Aijuka said the environmental watchdog operates on an assumption the district environment officers have money for environmental activities, an assumption that she said won’t be held anymore but rather consider the lack of finances and see how best to have the people facilitated.

    Edward Ssekika

    Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

  • Mubende gold miners given a two hours ultimatum to vacate the mines

     Over 50,000 artisanal miners operating in Mubende district were ordered to vacate the gold miners within a period of two hours on Friday 04/08/2017.

    This operation to evict all the artisanal gold miners in Mubende district is was led by Col Balikuddembe Lutaaya commander 1st division in Uganda People’s Defence forces.

    The miners were told to leave the mining sites in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties but were not given ample time to rescue their mining equipment.

    A troop of Uganda peoples defence forces and Uganda police forces totaling 750 people, 4 tear gas vehicles and tanks were stationed in the gold mining  sites in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties  forcing the gold miners and other people operating business with this location to pack their belongings to leave the mines.

    Mr Sempowo Robert the chairman Mubende artisanal miners explained  that they has been woken up by the sound of lorries moving into the mines that were packed with Uganda peoples defence forces soldiers and Uganda police forces officers who ordered them to vacate the premises within two hours and by midday no single person  was to be found in the mines.

    Sempowo added, “Currently most of the miners in this area are packing up their belonging to leave the premises ,others have abandoned their property for lack of money especially the heavy machinery  while other are selling the property at a giveaway price so that they can live this place before it’s too late.”

    “Government is not fair, because there was no official communication to neither the leaders or to the gold miner  to vacte the gold mines , we have been relying on rumours and hear say, its a shock to us all our efforts have been shattered one investor. ”Sempowo expressed.

    Ivan Male Kawuma, the  Project Coordinator Singo Artisanal Small Scale Miners Association said that “we are being treated like non Ugandans, how can we become like refugees in our own country. There is no communication, no compensation for the money invested in our business running in the gold mines. This has been our main source of livelihood and we don’t know what we are going to do next.”

     

    His Excellency Yoweri Kaguta Museveni the president of Uganda in his letter addressed to the hon. members of parliament Mubende district dated 28/June/2017 made it clear that;” those artisanal miners who invaded where the investor had excavations must straight away get out.

    The evictions folowed the presidential directive to evict all the artisanal miners in Mubende district on grounds that the  people in the mines are not registered, government doesn’t know the amount of gold they are getting out from this area, the people operating in this area are not Ugandans and increased environmental degradation which  is a threat to the nearby communities.

    However the permanent secretary under ministry of energy and mineral development  Dr.Stephen. R. Sabalija in the letter dated 02/08/2017 entitled Statement on illegal mining activities in Uganda explains that government is putting in place intervention measures whereby all the local artisans will be registered in all mining areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub counties so that they can be organized into groups that shall ultimately be regulated.

    This intervention is anticipated to take 3 months and will subsequently help the ministry of  Energy and Mineral development to re-organise mining activities supported by Uganda police force, Uganda people’s defence forces, Directorate of citizenship and immigration control under the Ministry of  Internal Affairs and will be led by Ministry of  Energy and Mineral Development.

    Josephine Nabaale

    Oil.Uganda@actionaid.org

  • youth miner entiring a pit

    Health, Safety Takes Back Seat In Busoga Gold Rush

    A youth miner entering a pit in Nabwal Mining Camp. Photo by Josephine Nabaale

    With red dust all over his body, a short well-built man, probably in his 40s steps out of a 50-foot pit, to speak to Oil in Uganda on his mining journey.

    His name is Majidu Musisi, Chairman of Nabwala Gold Mining site in Budde, Bugiri district which has over 500 small scale gold miners. Musisi works with his wife, Nekesa Beatrice and together, they brave the pits and tunnels below the ground in search of the ever elusive gold rocks.

    ‘’I have been mining gold in this area since 2006, and even though other people have left with the belief that gold is done, I still think we can find more if we dig further into the ground ‘’ Musisi says.

    In his search for gold, Musisi uses rudimentary tools like a hand-held pick axe, shovels, and hoes. Quickly, he rather adds that he knows that he needs protective gear like a helmet for his head and gloves, nose-masks and gumboots for his hands, nose and legs to protect him from getting into contact with mercury during washing and amalgamation process.

    “These protective gears are expensive to buy,” he says, adding that they prefer to use bare hands and purchasing gloves, gumboots and nose-masks will ‘economically’ take him back.

    “If we were using excavators, it would be different.”

    It is a common sight to find men, women, and children searching for gold from a mixture of soil, water, and mercury. However, while the local miners crave mercury to help them get gold, they are also inviting ill health that could cause death with the same measure.

    According to the World health Organization (WHO) exposure to mercury is the biggest cause of health hazards facing Small scale or artisanal gold miners. The UN organization says in a report on the Health effects of Mercury that due to Mercury’s effects, children and women of child-bearing age are considered vulnerable populations because it says mercury can be passed from a mother to her unborn child.

    And yet at gold mines in Namayingo district, eastern Uganda, mercury is one of the vital possessions every miner must have. The liquid chemical is highly sought after as they apply it during the process to extract gold from dust dug ground from the Gold rocks in the mines.

    Dr. Joseph Gyagenda of Nsambya hospital last year told Oil in Uganda that mercury was a heavy metal that could not easily be absorbed by living organisms, including humans and could cause permanent mental disability and a range of other conditions.

    A walk around Nabwaala mining site, deep open-abandoned pits are littered all over the place; often with no kind of forewarning of probable accidents and some pits obscured by thickets.

    Because of the rudimentary methodology, mounds of tailings stand at several meters high overlying on the edges of the pits that are sometimes more than 50 feet deep.

    On a rainy day, accidents are imminent as the loose earth simply collapses into the pit, nostalgic Lubanga Ronald states.

    When digging tunnels into the ground, there are no re-enforcements on the walls of the tunnels.  This, according to Batambuze Methuselah, the Community Development officer of Budhaya Sub-county can make the walls collapse during the rainy season.

    According to Musisi, four people have lost their lives after pits collapsed on them. In Nsango B gold mining site in Namayingo district, two people lost their lives in the same way in 2015.

    “People here just mine and if they find no gold, they abandon the pit and start digging another one without filling the hole created,” Musisi narrates, adding that even stoarge of tailings has become a challenge in the area.

    An open processing pit in Nsango B mining site where Cyanide is used to attract the gold nuggets from tailings, Photo by Josephine Nabaale

    In Uganda, artisanal and small-scale mining has for years been recognized as illegal and there is no regulatory framework that governs them. This has also created loopholes on the checks and balances since the safety measures cannot be enforced.

    According to the Acting Community development officer Bugiri District Shafic Butanda, the district has not taken interest in gold mining in the district.

    ‘’Gold mining is a new thing, so politicians in the district have not shown interest in it and we are forced to reach out to the central government to take up the issue of regulating small scale miners’’ he told Oil in Uganda.

    The visit to Busoga revealed that artisanal mining, just like other areas around the country is a source of livelihood for many Ugandans. A recent study estimates that over 400,000 people in Uganda who are directly engaged in the activity and additional 1.5 million benefitting indirectly.

    This is a part one series of the gold story in Uganda. In the subsequent part, we visit the Mubende mines whose operations are comparatively at a more sophisticated level.

    Report by Collins Hinamundi and Robert Mwesigye

  • Gold Miners Commend ActionAid Uganda Over Safety Campaign

    Nakimuli and Nalukuuma at work, Photo by Josephine Nabaale

    Gold miners in Mubende district have commended the safety campaign championed by Action Aid international to promote health and safety standards in the mines.

    During a recent visit by Oil in Uganda to the gold mines early this year, several miners in Kitumbi sub county, Mubende District expressed their gratitude to Action Aid International for providing them with safety gears and providing a platform for awareness.

    Nakimuli Shamim, one of the beneficiaries explained that she was unaware of the importance of using  safety gear while washing the gold dust.

    “Now that I understand how important this safety gear is, I can now wash up to 8 basins of gold dust without worrying about getting sick from exposure to mercury,” she narrated to Oil in Uganda.

    “Before, I used to develop itchy skin rashes but my hands are now covered with gloves and I also have gum boots to protect my legs,” she noted.

    Nakimuli adds that using the safety gear will eventually see her walk home with a high income since she will be able to work for longer hours.

    As for Nalukuuma Juliet who has been in the gold industry for three years, the use of safety gear had never crossed her mind.

    She narrates that she would endure the tedious process of washing the gold dust despite the fact that her hands always developed small painful swellings.

    “If you are looking for money, you have to endure and keep working even if you have those small swellings. If you do not work you cannot be paid,” she stated.

    Nalukuuma further adds that often, it is uncomfortable working under the sun while wearing the safety gear but one has to persevere.

    Zziwa grinding dried iron ore wearing his nose mask. Photo by Josephine Nabaale

    According to Zziwa Hussein, a grinding machine operator, he is now protected from the dust emitted during the crashing process that has made him suffer from constant chest pains.

    I now hope that the chest pains from inhaling too much dust will reduce with this safety gear,” he says.

    In August 2016, over 80 miners in Lubaali, Lujjinji B  and Kampala mining sites in Mubende district received safety gears  including gumboots, waterproof overalls, nose masks and helmets  from Action Aid International in a bid to promote health and safety conditions in mines.

    Report by Josephine Nabaale