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Sukulu Phosphates Plant: A Chinese Nugget!

Well, it had to come to this. On the opening day of the Phosphates Plant in Sukulu in Tororo District. Someone digs into the back history of the industrial adventure done today. Like we had to have the knowledge of the President launching it for the first time:

President Museveni launched the construction of the complex in August 2014. The construction work was expected to be completed by the end of this year, however, there were delays in securing funding from the banks, and also technology that will be employed” (Uganda7 – ‘Sukulu fertiliser factory to open in October’ 25.07.2018).

Therefore, this is a long story, even to the early days of the Museveni administration, when they were conducting studies with African Development Bank and the World Bank to find a good way of utilizing the reserves and mineral rich area of Tororo. This they started on in 1989. Surely, the President has forgotten about the companies and the ones involved back than. The study of the possible comes from back-then. The one well known, as the original studies back to 1950s is not that accessible. However, it is more to the story. Before it became a Chinese Nugget and a possible mine for them.

Sukulu Hills:

The Study concluded that the Sukulu Hill deposits, the largest one in East Africa, with reserves estimated at about 230 million tons of residual soil with an average grade of 11-12Z P205, are easily mineable–as confirmed by a successful trial mining test executed under the Study; and furthermore, that on-site beneficiation of the rock could upgrade the P205 content up to 40-44Z, a level among the highest in the world. In order to select the optimal plant configuration, the Study considered 29 different scenarios, from the simplest ones (ground rock, partially acidulated rock, single superphosphate)to the most complex (triples uperphosphate,mono-ammonium phosphate, diammonium phosphate), at different levels of plant capacity and under different assumptions of sulfuric acid availability. A plant with a capacity of 217 i000 tpy of SSP based on local sulfuric acid production from imported sulfur was recommended as part of the optimum project configuration” (World Bank – ‘PROJECT COMPLETION REPORT UGANDA – PHOSPHATE ENGINEERING PROJECT (CREDIT 1228-UG)’ (13.06.1989).

Uganda Investment Authority in 2016:

Nilefos Limited, a local company, has acquired an Retention Licence for the Sukulu deposit. The company is seeking for joint venture partners to develop the mines and manufacture phosphate fertilizers and other by-products” (UIA – ‘Background to the Mineral Sector’ 07.12.2016).

IGG 2014:

According to the IGG report, Frontier, which counts former Commissioner Joshua Tuhumwire among its senior management, sent two of its staff to file an application for an exploration licence at the DGSM on 26 June 2013. According to the IGG report staff turned them away allegedly citing an instruction from the Commissioner Edwards Katto not to accept any applications for the Sukulu project. They complained to the IGG about the process. As a result the IGG published a number of concerns relating to Guangzhou’s successful application (through its subsidiary Hui Neng)” (…) “According to the Mining Cadastre the Guangzhou exploration licence was applied for on the 24 June 2013 and granted on the 1st of August 2013. Their mining lease was granted on the 29 October 2014. 198 In December 2014, after Guangzhou had received its licences Edwards Katto’s daughter was sent an invite for her to visit Guangzhou’s headquarters, with accommodation at their expense. Nilefos also raised concerns in court that the legal firm, ABMAK, is headed by the son of the then Permanent Secretary to the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development – Henry Kaliisa which it considered to be a conflict of interest” (Global Witness – ‘Under-Mined’ June 2017).

We can see the hands of Minister of Energy Muloni and others, who clearly didn’t follow protocol on the quest of getting license for the Chinese Mining Corporation, as they differed and moved away from the prospects of a local mining corporation Nilefos, who had been there for a long and even made a feasibility study in 2010 for their operation. Certainly, the Ministry knew about this. But the backroom arrangement was so, especially considering the Ministry was meeting the Chinese, while having licensed to Nilefos. That was known in 2013, as they wrote it on the UIA pages in 2016. Nilefos still had it, who knows if the Chinese had to cough up monies to payout the Nilefos. Because that is the backroom deals we don’t know at this point and who in the Ministry who are beneficiary of the deal that has been done.

When the IGG is not allowed to publish a report on the transactions and licensing of the Sukulu Hills and the plant itself. You know something fishy is going on. There are something up and it isn’t all positive. As well, as how the local has been taken care of, as their houses and plots has been evicted because of the building of the plan.

Like the stories like these:

In December 2014, the government signed a deal with Guangzhou Dongsong Energy Group Ltd, a Chinese company, to develop phosphates in Sukulu, Tororo District. A total of 4,800 people are expected to be displaced by the project. Affected persons claim they did not understand the terms of the surface land rights lease agreements and were duped by ‘middlemen’ to sign them. General Comment No 24 should clearly indicate the State obligation to ensure free prior and informed consent principles and access to information that is in the hands of both the state and business entities” (UCCA – ‘Comments on the draft General Comment No. 24 on State Obligations under the International Covenant on Economic, Social and Cultural Rights in the Context of Business Activities’ 2016).

As seen by the IGG report and also by the UCCA. There been double-dealing of the license and not by protocol or righteous compensation of the ones living on the land. The Sukulu Plant could have been a positive development and something hopeful. Instead, by looking into it. There are a lot of shadiness going on and its not a good look. This is not a significant story when concerning this President and his administration. However, it shows how personalities and their drive, counters legal justification and finding a common ground. They are land-grabbing and essentially also overpowering the ones already planning to extract the minerals here. This has been done deliberate and with one intent.

The Chinese got the nugget and got the opportunity. The IGG report, which has been kept a secret shows so and the Global Witness is showing it. The President surely has put his stakes into this and therefore, been at the opening in 2014 and now today in 2018. He has clearly had his eyes on this and now was the time. Peace.

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