By Aryatwijuka Phillo
The Principles to be embodied in the Mining and Minerals Bill 2019 were approved by cabinet in January 2019 demonstrating government’s commitment in undertaking key mining sector legal and regulatory reviews in the Mining sector; the review Mining Act 2003 and Mining regulations 2004. This commitment is further reflected in the passing of the Mining and Minerals Policy 2018 which undoubtedly put Uganda on the positive road to major legal reforms in the mining sector.
These reviews come at a time when the mining sector contribution to GDP is 0.3% per annum. Notably the mining and minerals policy 2018 recognises that resources such as sand, clay and rock mining have become a major driver towards economic growth having attracted increased Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the sub-sector from US$5 million in 2003 to over US$ 800 million in 2017.
Again the mining and Minerals Policy 2018 further propels the mining sector into another strategic direction by clearly demonstrating that every Ugandan can mine or be affected by mining activities when it took consideration the regulation of commercial exploitation of development minerals; like sand, stone, clay and murrum among others. The premise of inclusion of this category of minerals is to support revenue generation estimated at over 3% contribution to GDP.
In light of these current developments, Ugandans ought to appreciate that gone are the days when a mention of a mineral was considered gold, diamonds and other precious metals. Without question a big percent of Ugandans use this category of minerals like sand, clay, stone mostly in construction and ultimately should be interested in the ongoing reviews. The biggest percentage of the Ugandan population has kept in the background mainly due to lack of access to information on key sector processes, mining rights and entitlements that can facilitate their effective participation.
Ugandans should be keen on the mining act 2003 review processes by ensuring it addresses key pertinent issues of concern. Current weaknesses in the Mining Act 2003 relate to its salient claims on royalty payments which often do not reach landowners further escalated by the complex nature of land ownership in areas like Karamoja, lack of a clear system for quantification and verification on how much is extracted to enable local governments and landn owners understand the core basis upon which royalty amount due is calculated. This has had negative implications on the failure by mining revenues to translate into long-term social and economic development in communities located near mining or mineral exploration projects. On the other hand the current mining act is salient on a clear long-term strategy or funding to formalize ASM subsector, which remains informal and continues to be a source of conflict and lost revenue. Other issues relate to free prior and informed consent during exploration as well as environmental management prior, during and after mining activities.
Additionally, there is limited capacity, resources and personnel for monitoring, inspections and enforcement of existing laws and regulations which has affected and weakened the legal and regulatory environment in the long term.
Moving forward multi stakeholders have to deliberately combine efforts to ensure that there is participatory extensive consultations in the review of the Mining Act 2003 to exhaustively address the current weaknesses and gaps for a sustainable and transformative mining sector that benefits all Ugandans. Additionally with a consideration that the cabinet of Uganda approved the accession of the Government of the Republic of Uganda to the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative the principles of EITI should be adopted in the Mining Act to guide on revenue collection, transparency and accountability in the mining sector for the benefit of all citizens.
The writer is the Programme Officer, Ecological Christian Organisation(ECO)