Residents of Makuutu in Bugweri district have been urged to work closely with Rwenzori Rare Metals, a company that was given the license to exploit the recently discovered mineral resource in the area.
“The constitution gives government power to govern as well as exploit natural resources in the country for the betterment of the people,” Nankabirwa said, adding that the mining project in the area will go on.
Nankabirwa was speaking during a stakeholders engagement meeting in Makuutu, Bugweri district on Monday afternoon.
Her remarks followed reports that some area residents were opposed to the activities of Rwenzori Rare Metals in the area as well as government’s plan to relocate them to other areas to pave way for mineral exploitation in the area.
“How are we the despised citizens going to benefit from the mineral resource in our area. To begin with, you clearly showed that we do not matter when you made us sit here for donkey hours without even a bottle of water,” said Jamadah Kasiisa, the LC1 chairperson for Makuutu village.
Kasiisa was referring to the hours residents spent waiting as minister Nankabirwa was engrossed in a closed-door meeting with the area political leaders and technocrats.
Prior to Nankabirwa’s remarks, the State minister for minerals, Peter Lokeris, assured residents that a mineral resource had been discovered in the area.
“I am very happy to b e here today. I want to tell you that a company approached us after discovering that there is a mineral here. We gave them a license and they proved to us that indeed the mineral exists. We are here to discuss how we can exploit this mineral resource,” minister Lokeris said.
Bugweri county MP Abdul Katuntu in his remarks warned people who were posing as middle men between the area residents and the mining company to stop with immediate effect.
“There were people who were moving around with papers telling people to sign. This should stop immediately,” Katuntu said.
He said the mining company should deal directly with the affected people so that they are compensated for their land and resources.
Katuntu urged the land owners in the marked areas to form an association and deal directly with the government on the issue of compensation.
Minister Nankabirwa assured the residents that they will be compensated but warned them against using the money to marry more women.
“People have a right to be compensated and the necessary criteria will be followed to effect the compensation. The challenge is that most of the land in the mineral rich areas is customary and we have to ensure that we are dealing with the right people,” Nankabirwa said.
She urged the land owners in the affected areas to expedite the process because the government has already signed a contract with the mining company and exploration is to begin soon.
Rwenzori Rare Metals entered an agreement with government after geological studies in Makuutu (Bugweri), Buwunga (Bugiri), Buwaya and Mpungwe (in Mayuge) indicated that there is an economically viable mineral resource of Rare Earth Elements (REE) in the explored areas. The mineral is necessary for strong magnets and modern-day technology such as batteries, smartphones, laptops as well as wind turbines.