The mineral prospecting area in question is located in Shinyanga Region and licenced to Pangea Minerals Limited, a subsidiary of Acacia Mining Plc (formerly Barrick Tanzania) which owns three gold-producing mines in the country - Bulyanhulu, North Mara and Buzwagi.
The president yesterday chided the ministry for ordering the removal of artisanal miners from the Mwakitolyo area and reversed the decision, saying it is the mining giant that should be removed instead.
"How do you kick out more than 5,000 people in favour of just one investor? This is unacceptable and it doesn't even make sense," Magufuli said at State House in Dar es Salaam.
He ordered Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan to ensure his instructions are implemented and Pangea Minerals’ prospecting licence (PL) is cancelled forthwith.
Tanzania's Mining Act of 2010 gives Pangea Minerals Ltd as the license holder exclusive rights to carry out gold search activities in the area.
To quote the legislation verbatim: "A prospecting licence confers on the holder the exclusive right to carry on prospecting operations in the prospecting area for minerals to which the licence applies."
Officials of Acacia Mining Plc were not immediately available for comment.
According to the president, it was improper that senior officials in his government should want to favour just one large-scale investor over such a large number of local small-scale miners in such a venture.
"They (small-scale miners) should stay put...if it’s an issue of the investor’s licence, that should be revoked. Honourable vice president, see to this," the president stated at his meeting with the VP and other senior government officials.
Also present at the meeting was the deputy minister of state in the President’s Office (Regional Administration and Local Government), Selemani Jafo, and his permanent secretary Mussa Iyombe.
Officials from the Ministry of Energy and Minerals were apparently not present, but the president instructed the VP to pass the word down to them.
He pointed out that thousands of small-scale miners would lose their livelihoods if the plan to remove them from the gold field in question is carried out.
Thus by presidential order, the trend of forcefully removing artisanal miners from prospecting areas within the mineral-rich country to pave way for large-scale mining activities appears to have been duly stopped.
Magufuli also hinted at a racket involving unscrupulous government officials who he says have been illegally back-dating documents to show that large-scale investors are given prospecting licences to gold-rich areas way before the arrival of small-scale miners.
According to the president, the opposite is true. He warned that such illegal dealings would “no longer be tolerated."
In a statement issued Wednesday last week (November 30), the deputy minister for Energy and Minerals, Dr Medard Kalemani, ordered small-scale miners to immediately vacate areas number 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6 at Mwakitolyo, saying the cited areas were legally conferred to Pangea Minerals Ltd through prospecting licence number PL 5044/2008.
The deputy minister issued a notice to the artisanal miners to exit the area by Monday next week or face forceful eviction; an order now apparently quashed by the president.
The government had initially instructed Pangea to relinquish area number 5 on its PL to small scale miners and remain with areas number 1, 2, 3, 4 and 6.
Meanwhile, Magufuli also issued a stern warning to regional commissioners (RCs), district commissioners (DCs) and district executive directors (DEDs) to stop forcefully evicting petty traders from city and town centres without providing them with alternative areas to run their businesses.
He said any government official who tries to present such haphazard eviction plans to him for approval will be sacked.
The president’s warning was specifically aimed at Mwanza regional authorities who have now been directed to immediately call off their plans to remove petty traders from the lakeside city’s central business district.
Magufuli asserted that his government was working for poor people, and not wealthy businessmen and investors.