Government, through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, is the process of developing new Mineral and Mining law which aims at strengthening the mining sector in Uganda.
According to senior technical officers at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines, the current law is outdated and cannot address the key challenges the sector is facing.
“As a Ministry, we have already developed the Bill; soon we shall start consulting stakeholders to get their views on the new proposed Mineral and Mining Bill which very soon will be tabled before cabinet for approval before it goes to the committee of natural resources in the Parliament for debate,” Zachary Baguma, the Director of Geological Survey and Mines in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, said.
The Officer disclosed this during the National conference and Exhibition for Artisanal and Small –scale Mining and Quarrying conference held at the Xanadu Collection Hotel in Kampala last week.
He said the new proposed Law will address key issues related to environmental protection, regulating key players in the Industry especially the artisanal miners among other issues in the Industry.
He noted that the mining sector has attracted many players but in carrying out their mining activities majority have ended up degrading and polluting the Environment.
“Our miners are using outdated means of mining this has left our environment degraded because the old law is quiet on environmental issues especially when it comes to artisanal and small scale miners. We want to strengthen it to ensure that even artisanal miners go through the rigorous process of carrying out environmental impact assessment on the locations where they plan to carry out mining and quarrying as it is with medium and large-scale miners in the country,” he added.
During the meeting that was attended by artisanal miners, government officials and other stakeholders, it was discovered that many artisanal miners are using dangerous chemicals such as mercury in the mining of precious Minerals such as Gold and this is dangerous to both the environment and the Miners health.
Ann Nakafere, the District Senior support officer at the National Environment Management Authority, said mercury usage has resulted into contaminating water bodies surrounding the mining areas and its toxicity ends up into the food value chain.
“These water bodies provides water for human consumption once they get contaminated with mercury this may leave behind health consequences especially to women and children thus miners should embrace modern means of mining these minerals for the good of public health and Environment “She said.
Accessing credit services
Responding to the call for the Artisan to embrace environmentally mining system, the Vice chairperson of the Artisan and small scale miners in Uganda Deusdedit Beinomugisha attributed the problem to the the Artisan and small miners facing difficulty in accessing credit services from financial institutions to procure modern machines.
“It is true some of our members use these chemicals in Mining and quarrying activities but it’s due to the nature of the environment under which they are operating. Government needs to come up and support the miners financially to enable them acquire the machines and embrace modern mining techniques,” he said.
Making his keynote address, Bwesigye Don Binyina, the Executive Director of Africa Center for Energy and Mineral policy(ACEMP), the convener of the Artisan and Miners Conference said the Government of Uganda has not put much emphasis on the Mineral and Mining sector yet the sector has the potential to contribute greatly in the country’s economy.
“The Government is focusing more on the Oil and Gas sector which cannot easily penetrated by local Ugandan because of it being capital intensive yet Uganda is endowed with wide range of mineral deposits if those minerals but the sector is not well supported that is why the largest players in the sector are Artisan and small miners this affects the Government inform of revenue mobilization” He said.
According to the available Information, over 90% of the mining in Uganda is done by Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASMs), estimated to be more than 390,000 countrywide. It’s also estimated that the ASM subsector indirectly sustains close to 2000,000 Ugandan across its value chain both backward and forward linkages. Despite these numbers these ASM remains largely informal thought the country and its development contribution risks and opportunities have been to great extent largely invisible by the government.
The major objective of the miners conference was to showcase and promote technology transfer in the ASM and Quarrying mining subsector alongside to create a platform and voice for all ASM actors in both high value minerals and Development Minerals in Uganda.
BY SAMUEL NABWIISO