Team to examine North Mara problems

Source: Daily News

MINISTER of Energy and Minerals, Professor Sospeter Muhongo, has announced that a special committee will be formed any time from today to work on chronic problems facing people living around North Mara Gold Mine.

Prof Muhongo reached the decision a few hours after making a working tour in the areas around the mine on Wednesday.

Among other things, the committee will look into issues pertaining to, land acquisition and compensation, artisanal mining, water and environment. Prof Muhongo said the truth be taken into consideration if the prevailing problems are to be solved once and for good.

The Minister blamed some government officials and police officers for engaging in misconduct acts at the mine, thus making it difficult to solve some of the problems. He said the committee will move around all areas with problems in a bid to find lasting solutions.

Prof Muhongo told the mine’s top management that his tour is meant at solving the problems, a move that will help improve the relations between the gold mine and local communities.

He went around witnessing temporary houses that have been built close to the gold mine by opportunists targeting huge compensations from the mining company. Part of the detailed report presented to the Minister by North Mara Gold Mine General Manager (GM), Mr Gary Chapman showed that land speculation locally known as ‘mtegesho’ as the greatest challenge facing the mine.

The GM said the gold mine has injected more than 670 million US dollars (about 1.2 trillion shillings) into local economy in the recent years. The mine is operated by Acacia, Tanzania’s leading gold producer. When asked by Minister Muhongo whether the company has good relations with neighboring communities, Mr Chapman said: it is not good and it is not bad”,.

According to the GM, around 70 percent of gold mine’s services are offered by Tanzanian contractors and suppliers in a bid to support local business something which impressed the Minister.

“If they are doing business with the gold mine, they should not be complaining“, Prof Muhongo pointed out. He challenged local people living near the mine to make good use of the opportunity by investing in education sector and do away with useless things.

The mine has of late been pouring millions of shillings to support local development with setting up of modern facilities in primary and public secondary schools getting top priority.

Meanwhile, Prof Muhongo has directed councilors of Tarime District Council to seek turnover of North Mara Gold Mine from the Tanzania Revenue Authority (TRA), instead of causing unnecessary misunderstandings between them and the mine.

“Always approach TRA in connection with the turnover of the mine. Never enter into argument with the mine”, Prof Muhongo said when reacting to a recent decision by Tarime councilors to reject receiving 1.6 bn/- disbursed as service levy by the mine.

Prof Muhongo warned that such a huge amount of money paid by the mine as service levy should never be misused but spent on projects designed to uplift the living conditions of citizens.

He ordered Tarime District Council to provide a report on how they used previous service levies and how they want to spend the 1.6 bn/- . The first service levy of nearly 1 bn/- was disbursed by the mine to the council in July last year, thus bringing the total amount to 2 b/- for the year 2015.

“There should be no councilors misusing this money “, Prof Muhongo insisted on Wednesday when he was speaking to Tarime District leaders and local leaders of the villages surrounding the mine at a hall in Ingwe Secondary School . He urged the Tarime District Commissioner (DC), to make close monitoring on how the money is spent.

. Payment of the service levy has replaced the annual royalty of 200,000 US dollars paid by the mine to the council in the past, thanks to the fruitful negotiation between the government and the country’s largest gold producer.

The new arrangement has seen a significant increase of cash paid by the Acacia mining company not only to Tarime District Council but also to other district councils where the investor is operating.

 

 

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