3 years on, graphite remains untraceable in Kitgum
todayAugust 17, 2021
Ojok Robert Mone
Orom graphite mines is located in Kitgum district northern Uganda approximately 187 km north-east of Gulu city. Orom-Cross graphite is a world class graphite project both by size and end-product quality, with a high component of more valuable larger flakes within the deposit discovered in 2013 by discovery Africa-a private exploration company. A 21-year mining license for the project was issued by the Ugandan Government in 2019 to consolidated African resources who later on leased the mining license to Blendcowe resources limited, a London based mining company following extensive historical work on the deposit presented as a large, shallow open pitable deposit, with an estimated overall resource between 2-3 billion tons of graphite. Precative’s mining analyst, Dr Ryan D Long, says currently the company is undertaking a 1,800-metre drill programme and is targeting the production of a maiden JORC-compliant mineral resource estimate before the end of the year. After relisting in April, Blencowe Resources is focusing on moving the Orom-Cross graphite project, in northern Uganda into production. Results by a metallurgical test work by Lakefield, a Swiss multinational company that provides inspection, verification, testing and certification services, 98 percent total graphite content underlines exceptional qualities of end Products as Concentrate grades consistently ranged at the top end of the spectrum, between 97-98 percent, low impurities, approximately 40 percent of the end product presents as jumbo large flakes and 60% as medium/smaller flakes. According to Consolidated Africa Limited CAL’s prospectus, the Orom graphite deposit is hosted within the Neoproterozoic West Karamoja Group (Morton, 1969), which consists of dominantly basic garnet-bearing granulites and graphitic granulites. Development of the resource is expected to benefit from a low strip ratio and free dig operations thereby ensuring lower operating and capital costs. A section of community members are anticipating improvement in livelihoods when the takes shape soon. Faustino Olyec Lukol, a catechist and a beneficiary of land compensation says so far compensation for land by those affected by the project has taken shape. Several meetings have been organized with community members, local leaders and mining the company in which an agreement was reached to between land owners and the mining company to use their land, with a premium of 49-years to be paid after every 5-years. According to Faustino, all beneficiaries were registered and payment started through DFCU bank, depending on the size of the land a family or individual owned and the company requested the community to relocate to another place when actual mining begins. Faustino added that their family got 17-million from 42-acres land with payments expected for 2023 since COVID-19 affected 1st payment where project affected persons received the first pay in 2020 instead of 2019 Bosco Omony, another resident in the project area said they are happy with the work of the company because some land owners have already been paid, with tractors also given to community to improve farming practices to enhance improved livelihoods. Natural graphite is mostly used for among others; batteries, steelmaking, expanded graphite, brake linings, foundry facings and lubricants. Other usage include; making of carbon nanotubes and reinforcement of plastics. Commercial structures made from carbon fiber graphite composites include fishing rods, golf club shafts, bicycle frames, sports car body panels and the fuselage of the Boeing 787 Dreamliner and poolcue sticks among others. Andrew Adams Luwok, the chairperson for the Lucomo communal land association is optimistic of Orom, Kitgum and the neighboring regions that shall register industrial revolution. “Residents of Orom east Sub County are predominantly agriculturalists but the mineral discovery shall aid improvement on road infrastructure, international airport, 3-phase power line of electricity and development of industrial park for battery, lubricants factories among others. We are also confident of development of tourism after tarmacking of the Kitgum-Karenga road that connects to Kidepo volley national Game Park”, he said.
The fears? A section of local leaders are however skeptical of the project. Kadet Thomas Butime the village headman of Toboi village in Orom east Sub County says many farm lands have been affected by the mining. “I don’t think there is any benefit we are going to since many farm lands have been destroyed, large pits opened by the mining company and covered with stones which makes the land very unproductive for agriculture. In addition to that several people who owned huge chunks of land have never been compensated”, he said. However a number of aspects of activities in the area remain unclear to so many residents. From being embroiled in compensation conflicts to doubt about the existence of the mineral in the area. “We are not even sure if really graphite is here with us. I have stayed here for a long time and there is nothing that shows graphite is here in this place”, said Ojok Jimmy a resident of the area. Preliminary findings of availability of the world’s grade graphite in Orom has attracted fresh demands from community especially compensation, restructuring leadership of communal land associations and revision of memorandum of understanding signed between land owners and the consolidated African resources that Blencowe resources has taken over the mineral fields. “We have not the memorandum of understanding between our people and this company that is purported to be handling activities here. There are trucks carrying something which are suspect could be graphite moving at night in the area which is making us so suspicious of smuggling this mineral to another place which is causing fear of the community. We want our community to benefit from this thing if at all it is there”, said a local leader who declined to be named. Margret Lamwaka Odwar, the Member of Parliament Chua East demands for revising of surface right agreement signed between land owners through their association Lucomo communal land Association and former exploration company consolidated African resources that has been taken over by Blencowe resources. “We need the revision of the surface right agreement so that some key items in the cooperate and social responsibly be clearly put in black and white. For instance constructions of roads, and health centres drilling boreholes among others which are not done up to now. Even the compensation has a lot of issues”, she said. Local leaders fear that the company may not implement the environmental impact assessment recommendations, which could lead more environmental destruction to the community. But according to RNS news service of the London Stock Exchange, the chief executive officer Mike Ralston Blencowe resources reported that investment decision to inject capital in graphite production shall be taken by 2023 after final test analysis. “The company shall carryout metallurgical test work to demonstrate various end products that can be delivered to market and commencement of feasibility study on initial 10-year mine life, including all mining, plant, infrastructure and logistics mike”, Ralston reported. Ralston added that the principal aims of the above work programme are to gain further geological information to understand the potential, verify the graphite grade and continuity, and further understand the mineralogy”. According to the United States Geological Survey, world production of natural graphite in 2016 was 1,200,000 tons; of which China, India, Brazil, Turkey and North Korea are major producers of graphite. As of 2013, market price of natural graphite ranges between 17,500,000 UGX and 70,000,000ugx per ton. Other areas in Northern Uganda with graphite deposits are Kitgum-Matidi Sub County in Kitgum district, Acholibur in Pader district and Zeu Sub county Zombo district in west Nile.
COVER PHOTO: Blencowe resouces limited. Area residents and leaders want the mining process of graphite in Kitgum expedited.