Uganda’s development minerals lie unexploited says report

KAMPALA, Uganda—The Baseline Assessment and Value Chain Analysis of Development Minerals in Uganda has revealed that despite mapping of known occurrences, many commodities are not currently being exploited. 

The report underscores that despite multiple potential downstream applications; most Development Minerals are transformed into a limited number of products and/or produced in insufficient quantities resulting to trade deficits.

For example, Reliance on imports of many Development Minerals and their products constituted 3.2% of Uganda’s trade deficit of -2.56 billion USD in 2016. The most significant contributors to this are ceramics (inclusive of sanitary ware, dishware and other products that can be derived from kaolin), salt (mainly in the form of iodized salt), cement, other lime products and gypsum. 

The report highlights that Artisanal and small-scale (ASM) are responsible for production of an estimated 83% of all Development Minerals (by value) in the country. 

Estimated at 350 million USD in 2015, ASM production equates to 5.3 times the value of estimated medium and large-scale production for these minerals and 7.5 times that of their officially reported production. 

This is also 4.2 times the value of estimated (unofficial) artisanal gold production and over 7 times the value of officially reported production of all mineral commodities, including limestone, pozzolana, kaolin, vermiculite, aggregate, gold, tungsten, tantalum, tin and cobalt. Main ASM products by volume, value and employment are solid, burnt clay bricks followed by stone aggregate and limestone.

ASM of Development Minerals a major source of rural and peri-urban employment. Production of clay bricks, sand, stone aggregate, dimension stone, kaolin, salt and pozzolana is estimated to directly employ approximately 390,000 Ugandans, with women constituting 44% of the workforce.

This marks a 116% increase since 2008 estimates. Clay, sand and stone aggregate, in particular, are mainly located in close proximity to urban centers and, in light of soaring urbanization rates, are expected to constitute a growing source of much needed employment. Within 150km of Kampala alone, 1238 active and abandoned sites for clay (576), sand (346) and stone aggregate (316) production have been identified.

However, the report reveals that despite the high value of ASM production, the majority of the ASM workforce does not earn significant income from ASM.

 Individual incomes average ca. $300 per annum or less than half of the gross national income (GNI) per person. This is largely attributed to three factors like sharp declines in production and employment in the rainy season, production inefficiencies resulting in low quality, low priced products; and the way in which most ASM is organized and financed, resulting in almost half of production value (estimated at 48% on average) accruing to site owners, pit owners, supervisors and land owners.

To address this challenge, the report suggests that at policy level, government regularize and improve artisanal and small scale mining through light-handed application of regulations, provision of information on production and marketing, provision of extension services through miners associations and implementation of awareness campaigns targeting artisanal and small scale miners. 

It also calls for critical opportunities and barriers in the institutional and technical operating context to be addressed to support improved performance in the Development Minerals sector. These largely pertain to geodata, sector promotion, financing and other support services.

On environmental impacts, main concerns relate to land degradation, consumption of forest resources from clay brick and lime production and degradation of wetlands from sand and clay mining need to be addressed.

The report calls for a market study and a value chain analysis: “Development Minerals are, by no means, “Low Value Minerals”; they are in fact “High Value” with respect to development outcomes. When both the value of primary production and downstream macro-economic contributions are considered, the significance of Development Minerals value chains is remarkable. Results of the value chain analysis of 4 focus ASM commodities – clay bricks, sand, stone aggregate and rough, uncut dimension stones with each having a capacity contribution of about over 6.5% to GDP,” the report highlighted.