More than 500 pozolana miners in Harugogo and Kichwamba sub-counties in Kabarole District have protested the move by Hima Cement Factory to replace them with machinery.
The miners say with the contraction of Royal Transit Company they have been rendered jobless as the company uses new technology and machinery for mining.
Pozolana is a siliceous and aluminous material used in the manufacture of cement. The mineral is extracted from Fort Portal town and ferried to Hima Cement factory in Kasese District.
According to local authorities, more than 50 lorries are loaded with pazolana daily.
Last week, more than 300 miners from Harugogo and Kichwamba sub-counties stormed the district chairman’s office, Mr Richard Rwabuhinga, asking him to halt operations of Royal Transit Company.
“Since 1994 we have been engaged in pozolana mining and selling it to Hima Cement Factory. This business has been employing more than 500 people including land owners, miners, loaders and drivers,” the miners led by the Harungogo sub-county chairman, Mr Godfrey Musumba, said in their October 29 letter presented to Mr Rwabuhinga.
Mr Musumba said besides the company lacking a valid licence they were also not consulted on the matter.
He said miners want Royal Transit Company to buy pozolana from them so that they can directly benefit from the trade. “As leaders of the sub-counties, we have resolved to stop all land owners from giving away their land for pozolana mining until the use of tractors is halted,” he said.
According to Mr Musumba, before the introduction of machinery, residents earned a combined Shs5 million daily.
Mr Julius Byamukama, the chairman of Pozzolana Miners and Drivers Association, said the charges for a truck of pozolana vary according to sizes but the lowest can be between Shs100,000 and Shs150,000.
Mr Rwabuhinga said the conflict between the residents of Harugongo and Kichwamba and Royal Transit Company will be solved on November 14 during a meeting of both parties.
When contacted, the manager of Royal Transit Company, Mr Tadeo Mukonyezi, said he has a valid operation licence which he acquired in 2017 from the Ministry of Energy.
Mr Mukonyezi revealed that he paid Shs500,000 for the trading licence and Shs2.3 million for the location licence
“Every quarter I pay Shs12 million as tax to each of the host sub-counties where we get the pozolana and royalties of Shs1,000 to the district per truck,” Mr Mukonyezi said.
In September 2014, business was paralysed in Fort Portal town as pozolana miners, loaders, lorry drivers and lorry owners went on strike after Hima Cement Factory contracted a new supplier; M/s Royal Transit Ltd after this company offered lower prices to Hima than the old suppliers.
According to Mr Byamukama, in 2013 they entered into a contract with Hima Cement factory to supply pozolana at Shs45,000 per ton which is higher than Shs38,000 offered by Royal Transit.