PAKWACH: Small scale miners mainly in sand and stone quarries are reluctant to register with the Environmental and Natural resources department due to an alleged fear that they are being double taxed by the sub county and the district.

The miners argue that they pay shs 20,000 to the lower sub counties for each track that loads at their sites while registering to acquire a license from the district also requires another amount of money which they say is double taxation.

At Puvunga quarry site in Panyango Sub county, the artisanal miners insisted that they will abandon the activities should the district enforce a mandatory registration.

Mr Ben Ongiera, one of the miners and an elder in the group said the local government authority should go slow with the enforcement process for hundreds that are directly and indirectly benefiting from small-scale mining that has created jobs for many.

“We are not totally against the registration, what we want clearly to be explained is the unnecessary taxes we incur to sub counties and the district, we want a clear explanation before we agree to be registered", Ongiera stressed.

He said registering for small-scale mining on their ancestral land is unpleasant and insensitive to their clan.

The district is struggling to register an estimated 26, 000 mainly artisanal miners in Alwi, Wadelai and Pakwach sub counties as well as Pakwach town council to comply with the 2019 mining and mineral Act that spells penalties and punitive fines on illegal mining and non performing mineral rights for both small scale, medium artisanal miners.

The Act also spells out punishments for citizens caught mining without permits and are liable to fines of up to Shs100 million or imprisonment upon conviction.

However, at Ojigo trading trade centre, the artisans want such stringent conditions to be relaxed since the region is not endowed with abundant and valuable minerals like gold and diamond.

Ms Consolate Amia, a miner, said they use rudimentary tools for mining but appealed to the government to intervene in promoting the economic activity by not burdening them with taxes.

"Government should first consult us because we are suffering and working under harsh conditions, we do not have equipment and the registration process will come with hurdles that are unfriendly to us”, she said.

She said the move to register them would drive many out of the business since most of them earn little than what is expected and it’s just hand to mouth.

However, Ms Jenifer Oweka, the Pakwach district Environmental and Natural resource officer said the government is aware of the plight of the small scale miners and that as a district, they intend to convene an engagement with sub county stakeholders about the issues raised.

She said the enforcement process would not be rushed but urged the artisans to prepare stating that there was no need for alarm.

Ms Jenifer Oweka

She said all the necessary revenue collection mechanisms will be derived to quell fears of double taxation by the Community.

"We had numerous engagements with the small scale artisans to register but they are really poor, we shall not impose the enforcement on them like that, we shall review all their complaints in soon to be organized meeting", she said

"What is the main challenge is the process of acquiring a certificate from National Environment Management Authority and a project brief that qualifies them to have a certificate, however we have planned all those in our quarterly activities' ', she added.