Payment dispute threatens iron ore mining in Rubanda

Iron ore artisanal miners at work in Burambira mines, Kabale District, in December, 2022.  PHOTO/ ROBERT MUHEREZA

What you need to know:

  • The artisanal miners claim that Kamuntu Investments Ltd has not paid them Shs3b after supplying it with iron ore.

A payment dispute between artisanal miners in Rubanda District and a mining company owned by Rubanda West MP Moses Kamuntu Mwongyera is threatening iron ore business in the area.

The artisanal miners claim that Kamuntu Investments Ltd has not paid them Shs3b after supplying it with iron ore, which is ferried to steel factories in Kampala, Jinja and Kenya.

The row came to the climax on Saturday when a group of artisanal miners led by Mr Ngomangime Kabahena blocked a truck from loading iron ore at the mines, demanding payment of their arrears.

Police were forced to intervene before summoning a meeting between the two groups.
However, during the meeting that was chaired by the Kigezi zonal commander for the Police Mineral Protection Unit, Mr Barnabas Banyenzaki, Mr Kamuntu explained that he had paid the miners.
However, the miners insisted that they have never been paid.

This prompted Mr Banyenzaki to advise the aggrieved persons to seek legal redress.
Mr Kamuntu later held a press conference and accused the miners of being used by some prominent politicians in the sub-region whom he said want to hijack his iron ore business.

“I fully paid all the people that supplied me with iron ore and there is evidence that they received their payment. Those falsely accusing me of not paying them Shs3b are being used by some prominent politicians from Kigezi who want to sabotage my business,” he said.

“Recently, I received information that a prominent politician took this group of people to the Prime Minister, Ms Robinnah Nabbanja, asking government to cancel my iron ore exploration licence on grounds that I have failed to pay them,” he added.

The MP wondered why he was not invited to the meeting with the Prime Minister to defend himself. 
“This group went to create a situation that I am guilty and also to deny me chance to prove them wrong,” Mr Kamuntu said.

But the vice chairperson of Kigezi Miners Association, Mr Ngomangime Kabahena, insisted that they resorted to petitioning the Office of the Prime Minister in September last year after Mr Kamuntu ignored their pleas to be paid. 

“It is not true that we were taken to the Prime Minister. It is us that petitioned the Prime Minister seeking redress because all that we need is payment, not cancelling licences. We shall not allow Mr Kamuntu or his agents to take our iron ore now that he has denounced us, besides refusing to pay us,” Mr Ngomangime said
But Mr Kamuntu said he has never entered into a business agreement with Kigezi Miners Association led by Mr Ngomangime.

Although he acknowledged that some of the association members were his former workers, the MP said he had paid them before they left.

He also claimed that he is facing stiff opposition because of the high stakes in the business as the government is in the final stages of establishing an iron ore processing plant in the district.