The recent report released by Global Witness on the Uganda’s mining sector cites a lot of concerns and irregularities in the mineral sector.
Despite this Ugandans should appreciate that the Ugandan government has made progress in promoting and developing the budding sector in the past 10 years.
Notably is carrying out the review of the mining policy 2001, Implementation of the Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project that conducted airborne geophysical surveys for the biggest part of the country, establishment of the mining Cadaster and Registry System, decentralizing the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines operations at regional levels and attracting some big mining investments like the USD 560 Sukulu phosphate project among others.
According to CNN news, in reaction to this report a spokesperson for the MEMD acknowledged problems with the licensing process and affirmed that it’s under review.
“Some of the issues raised by the report such as licensing are brought about because of weaknesses and loopholes in mining policy and laws,” the spokesman said.
“The ministry is currently reviewing these policies and we hope that some of these challenges will be cleaned up.”
The Uganda mining policy 2001 has been under review for the past three years. The review process involved a wide range of stakeholders in the consultative process. Currently the final draft mineral and mining policy 2016 is in place awaiting cabinet approval.
This new draft mining policy addresses most of the gaps and irregularities cited in the licensing process, lack of formalization and regulation for ASM miners, revenue sharing, the issues of occupational health and safety, environment and protected areas among others
The question now is how long should Ugandans wait for the new policy that would address some of the key pertinent issues in the mining sector to be passed?
For how long should the Artisanal and Small Scale Mining sector wait to be recognized and supported in recognition of its contribution to the production of more than 90 percent of metallic, industrial and building minerals and provision livelihoods of over 200,000 ASM?
Without question the government should prioritize the approval of the final draft mineral and mining policy 2016 and the subsequent review and approval of the Uganda’s Mining Act 2003 and regulations 2004.
This will streamline and address some of the issues that are brought about by the current weak legal and regulatory regime in the mining sector in Uganda.
Karamoja’s budding mining sector reflects perfectly to the urgent need for a strong legal and regulatory framework considering that 64 percent of the land area is already under concessions despite the area not being covered by the airborne geo physical survey whose prospect could increase the concessions area land coverage.
The strong implication of the weak legal regime in booming mining sector over such a big area in one of the poorest and vulnerable has a huge correlation with increased abuse of land/surface rights, indigenous rights, child exploitation, revenue sharing and environmental degradation among others.
Considering that Karamoja has a delicate environment with evidently limited water resources and yet some of the lucrative minerals like gold mining that requires huge amounts of water, there is fear that communities will be more affected by water scarcity. Already in some mining areas mercury is being used in gold mining which is detrimental to human health.
Ultimately strengthening Uganda’s mining legal and regulatory framework could go a long way in ensuring that sustainability of the mining sector for the benefit of all Ugandans.
The author is the Program Officer, Ecological Christian Organization email@example.com