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The Minister of Defense, Dominic Nitiwul, has been justifying the government’s decision to use military and police officers to get rid of miners whose activities are destroying water bodies in some parts of the country.

He said they soldiers were deployed to the mining sites to check illegal mining activities and not to check mining licenses or leases.

As part of the operations of the military, mining equipment have been seized and burnt on site, a development many have questioned its legality. Some have said the seizure and burning of the mining equipment contravenes the Minerals and Mining Act but the government says it is a necessary evil for the fight against illegal mining.

Addressing a press conference Wednesday, the minister said the government does not take pleasure in seeing mining equipment being destroyed but that the level of destruction caused the environment by illegal activities of miners require such drastic measures.

There have been complaints by some companies that even though they have mining leases, the military still confiscated their equipment and set them ablaze. But the minister explained the instruction to the military officers was not to inspect leases but to check those engaged in illegal activities whether or not they have licenses.

“The big companies in the Eastern Region were those who were doing the wrong thing and so they say we have a licence, we have mining lease so for us they will not touch us. But what they do not know is that we are not touching the licenses, it’s the illegality we’re touching. Our target was the illegality, our target was protecting water bodies”, he explained.

He said even for those companies that had licenses to mine, if the soldiers found out that their activities were destroying the water bodies, they were supposed to seize the equipment.

According to him, “the soldiers were not to inspect licenses”.

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