Uganda: Tororo Cement allegedly exploiting local suppliers; includes company's comments

Author: Betty Amamukirori, New Vision (Uganda), Published on: 12 September 2018

"Karamoja miners work on empty stomachs"

In Karamoja, miners endure abuse as companies ferry minerals out of the region. Men and women take alcohol for lunch and are paid peanuts, while children work without pay...The cattle, sheep and goats grazing freely on the mountain slopes, give an impression of a beautiful, peaceful and secure region. Its richness in minerals such as gold, limestone and marble is an icing on its beauty. However, at the bottom of this allure is a totally different picture characterised by despair, hopelessness and helplessness. Every day, for eight to 10 hours, local miners endure extreme exploitation at the hands of mining companies. Mining in Karamoja is still done on a small scale. In what the local authorities describe as speculation, companies come and go...When hunger bites, they take the local brew or sachet waragi to calm it.

For 15 years, Tororo Cement has been getting limestones and marble from this village. Every day, heavy duty trucks ferry these minerals from the site to Tororo district, where the limestone is used in the manufacturing of cement, while the marble stones are used for making tiles and utensils...Michael Lotita, 18, one of the miners, says it takes him and a team of other three miners, whom he directly employs, five days to fill a sh150,000 truck with stones. He pays each of the employees sh7,000 per day. “We work from morning to evening. When one is hungry, they take a sachet of waragi or local brew. There is no money for food. Even getting water is difficult. When the nearby borehole breaks down, we walk for 15km to get water. Here, a jerrycan of water costs sh2,000,” he says...

David Omido, the Tororo Cement utility and logistics manager, says what they are paying the miners now is higher than what is paid elsewhere. “Limetone is just an ordinary mineral and the price we pay now, if you consider its transportation from Karamoja to Tororo, is the highest in the world,” he says.  Omido adds that when determining the pricing, the company takes into consideration the cost implication, which includes the cost of production of the material. “If you go to Hima Cement, I am sure the whole operation is mechanised. You will not find people mining manually. Here, we are excavating for them so that they get an income. There is no exploitation and we are prepared to mechanise the operation,” Omido says. 

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