By Flavia Nalubega
On 17th May 218, the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development announced Cabinet’s approval of new Minerals and Mining Policy. The policy is meant to guide Uganda’s mineral’s sector and address the gaps in the mining laws.
For a process that has taken over five years, indeed there is need to celebrate! It has been a forth and back process, but very involving. There is need to applaud the Ministry that greatly involved mining communities, civil society organizations in Uganda that do advocacy work on mining, particularly ActionAid among others, legal bodies and other participants.
The beauty about this policy lies in the input to support formalization and regulation of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining. The Policy will as well consider mainstreaming gender equity, human rights and inclusiveness in the mineral sector, which is key in promoting and protecting women miners while discouraging children in mining.
ASMs and women miners have for so long labored in Uganda’s mining sector with little or no recognition. With the so much effort they put in to earn a living from the sector, all they’ve faced is the iron law that supports big mining companies at the cost of these communities. They are forced to mine ‘crumps’ and the real ‘bread’ in the mining areas goes to international investors.
From the current artisan mining in Mubende, Buhweju, Busia, Namayingo, Nakapiripirit, Amudat, Kaabong, Abim and Moroto Districts, its estimated that about 200 kilograms of gold equivalent to $ 8m, is being mined per month by ASMs and all this goes untaxed neither unrecognized.
In Mubende alone, gold mining has attracted tens of thousands of Ugandans to earn a living from the lucrative mining business. But last year the government took a bold step and chased all the over 50,000 ASMs from the gold mining area in favour of an AUC International mining company. The Government practically sent its people into unemployment and ripple effects are felt until date in increased crime rates, increased robberies and the high rate of kidnaps for money.
In Lwera-Masaka, sand minining has become a business for international companies. Chinese export this sand for billions of dollars, while local communities look on. They have occupied and bought off locals in this area-forcefully It took legislators’ and Civil society’s noise and interventions for Government to finally take a stand against export of this sand, an exercise that had gone on for years.
It is exciting to learn that Government now acknowledges that ASMs can make a big contribution to this country through taxation, while also earning a living from this lucrative business. We also jubilate that the President recently gave a directive to have the ASMs return to their gold mining area in Mubende, after confirming that they are an organized and registered mining group. The recent news about MEMD’s new office in Karamoja to bring support services close to the mining community there is also very fulfilling. This and more is what is expected of any democratic government.
The new Policy also proposes an establishment of ASM Fund to support lending schemes and protection of miners and facilitate access to land for Artisanal and small scale mining as well as establish an enabling framework for Artisanal and Small Scale Mining.
We need the Mining Law
Even with all this, it is not yet time to over jubilate the Policy for it is only a guiding document. There is need to fasten the process of reviewing the Mining Act 2003 to address what the policy proposes, if the mining sector is to be better organized for the benefit of both government, mining communities and mining companies.
The policy is expected to inform the proposed amendment to Mining Act, 2003 and address the gaps existing in Uganda’s mining laws. On announcement of the approval of the Mining Policy, the Ministry also confirmed the Mining Act had been tabled before the Parliamentary committee for review.
We appreciate this far the law has come, but for a process that started close to four years ago, there is need to fasten the review process to enact the law. With the law in place, ASMs will have a fall back position, especially when their rights to mining are violented, like has been the case in the recent past.
Key reforms in the policy;
- It proposes for the establishment of ASM Fund to support artisanal miners
- It proposes for the establishment of Mining Tribunal to arbitrate minerals and mining disputes
- It proposes for the establishment of the Mineral Audit Agency to assess royalties payable, revenue distribution and management among others
- It recommends for the establishment of a Mineral Reserve Fund where revenues from minerals will be collected.
- It proposes for the establishment of local content Development Fund in the mineral sector for skills and enterprise development.
- Establishes a committee to review and evaluate applications for mineral rights.
Flavia Nalubega works for ActionAid Uganda