By Julius Galisonga
Continued from previous edition
Know the Law: The Constitution under Article 244 vests powers in the Parliament of Uganda to make laws regulating the exploitation of minerals, sharing of royalties arising from mineral exploitation, conditions of payment of indemnities arising out of exploitation and conditions regarding the restoration of derelict lands.
The Constitution further provides that all minerals are held by the government of Uganda on behalf of the people. The same Article provides that all minerals shall be exploited taking into account the rights of; individual land owners, local governments and the governments.
Consequently, under the Mining Act, individual land owners are entitled to compensation for the land if taken over or to a share of royalties in the minerals exploited. In the event that the owner or lawful occupant of any land subject to a mineral right makes a demand to be paid the fair and reasonable compensation for any disturbance of their rights and for any damage occasioned to the surface of the land by the holder’s operations, the law grants the land owner or occupant an inherent right to compensation.
The Act also provides that individual land owners, local government and the government are entitled to a share in the royalties that accrue from exploitation of mineral rights. The owners or lawful occupier of the land subject to mineral rights are entitled to a 3% share, the local government 17% and the government 80%. The Act also provides that the assessed royalty shall be due within 30 days from the date of assessment, and delay in payment shall attract an interest on the unpaid royalty at the rate of 2% per annum above the commercial bank lending rate.
Therefore, a land owner whose royalties have not been paid is entitled to an interest for the unpaid royalties. The local Governments of the affected districts must come together and form an association, to manage expectations and to professionally map out a framework and to negotiate with the Government over such things as infrastructural development.
It is fair to demand that certain infrastructure be developed in these districts, in order to directly benefit the local communities. Take Makuutu sub-county in Bugweri District where the minerals were discovered as an example. The roads are impassable, especially during the rainy season. The districts must demand that they receive the same treatment as that accorded to Hoima District, especially because unlike oil, the minerals in Bugweri are not as costly to exploit.
In the same vein, the districts must select a skilled team of local leaders and professionals to look into such things as recovery of royalties, planning for the royalties and addressing the environmental concerns that come with the mineral exploitation as well as protect the interests of the local communities in these districts, especially in regard to land rights, protection of women and children in light of the new found wealth, recovery of royalties and rendering of financial management skills to the beneficiaries of the mineral exploitation.
Owners of land in these districts must also be sensitized not to dispose of their land because they are guaranteed to benefit from royalties that have to be paid for the minerals exploited. Moreover, in case of any inconveniences that they might suffer, the Mining Act provides for reasonable compensation for any disturbance of the rights. The mineral right owner shall pay compensation for any crops, trees and buildings damaged. As indicated above, the land owners need not sell their land, as they can apply for various licenses under the mining act to exploit the minerals.
The Mining Act Act provides that any person in Uganda has a right to acquire and search for, retain, mine or dispose of any mineral as long as a license authorizing the mining activities has been obtained from the relevant authorities. It is a requirement of law that the mining companies negotiate with the land owners through MoUs, before they are granted mining licenses. Some individuals choose to sell entirely, others are resettled for the period their land is used and then brought back when the mining is done.
In conclusion, the land rights as enshrined in the Constitution relating to compensation apply in such circumstances where minerals have been found on individual owners of land.
The writer is an Advocate of the High Court and a Managing Partner at Galisonga and Company Advocates.