KAMPALA – Stakeholders want the Government to revise the laws and regulations governing the mining sector if the ordinary person is to benefit.
In a Wednesday conference on the mineral subsector in Uganda, organized by the Global Rights Alert and the civil society coalition on oil and gas, different speakers warned that the current regulations benefit a spoonful of individuals, leaving the common person suffering.
Under the theme “Shaping Mineral Wealth and Energy Agenda”, the conference tackled extractive revenue management, the legal and policy framework governing natural resources in Africa, the global climate crisis and the energy transition discourse, and civic space for extractive sector players among others.
Ms. Winfred Ngabiirwe, Executive Director of Global Rights Alert underscored the role of the conference in bringing together different stakeholders in minerals to talk about how natural resources are being governed.
According to her, such spaces are always very high level, limiting an ordinary Ugandan from participating yet they are the most affected persons.
“Ordinary Ugandans would not engage and yet they have the power and capacity, they are the ones mining but also in the oil and gas sector, they are the ones affected by the development. So, we want them to share their experiences but also their hopes and how they can benefit from the investments that are being made in the sector.”
One of the biggest challenges, Ngabiirwe said is that the mineral sector is closed. “We don’t understand how investors are coming in, what they are doing, how much they’re producing, and whether they are paying Uganda the right money in the form of taxes or royalties.”
“Studies have shown that Africa loses a lot of money in terms of illicit financial flows and if you look at Uganda’s Auditor General’s report, there are so many discrepancies between what is produced, imported, and exported,” she said, adding that, “If the mining sector is not regulated as it is now, a lot of money is going to continue ending up without benefiting us, leaving the communities poorer.”
John Bosco Bukya, Chairperson of the Uganda Association of Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (UGAASM) blamed the challenges on not only the [poor] implementation of the minerals and mining law that has just been enacted but also the selfishness of the Government.
He noted that much as the new law provides for progression by providing for different types of licenses, there are still challenges.
“Yes, we were consulted by the government, but only 40% of our harmonized position was considered. The law still has some loopholes – the law bans the use of mercury (best for artisanal and small-scale miners) in all mining sites but what is the alternative?”
“The regulations were formulated as a private affair of government. We were not consulted, and these regulations make it very impossible for an artisanal miner to get a mining license.”
John Bosco also notes that much favoritism of the army by the Government is another big issue since they have evicted the locals and themselves became the miners and the regulators.
Eng. David Sebagala, an inspector of mines, noted “When the public understands mining, we won’t need to seek external funds. Some artisanal miners have billion-dollar projects, but lack of understanding in their communities limits their potential. People tend to invest in real estate and agriculture because they are more familiar with those sectors. However, if Ugandans understood the mining industry, we could utilize our own resources to develop these projects.”
Makerere University’s Dr Busingye Kabumba says with the current status quo, many Ugandans are likely not to benefit from the minerals.
He cited a ‘cartel’ operating in Kampala which has promoted illicit financial flows in the sector.
“Some of us wish there was no oil here. People who can steal fish, people who can steal trees what will they do to earth’s minerals and oil? I think we should be discussing state and constitutional reconciliation.”