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Local Government and ASM: To what extent are the local governments engaged in artisanal small scale mining?

The mining services industry is a vital source of economic activity and jobs in Uganda, and a major contributor to national income and wealth creation. Technical and business innovation is continually needed to maintain the industry’s international competitiveness and to ensure that mining is conducted in an environmentally sustainable manner that is aligned with society’s expectations. 

For a while now, mining has been dominated by artisanal and small scale mining around different parts of the country. To engage these miners, District Natural Resources and Environmental officers have been brought on board to assume the central government’s position on a number of issues that affect the ASM. The government is in the process of amending the Mining Policy 2001 and Mining Act 2003. 

A draft Mining and Mineral Policy 2016 was distributed among different stakeholders for review before tabling it to Cabinet. Illegal mining has many drawbacks and no easy solutions; those who take part are often just as much victims of the industry as the country in which they operate. But, something must be done about the great loss of life that follows these illegal operations, the environmental damage and the criminal practices associated with it. Government is working towards formalizing ASMs through registration, licensing and regulation. 

This is also intended to promote ASMs’ coexistence with other mineral rights-holders in the country. The Directorate of Geological Survey and Mining has inefficiencies – they are understaffed with mining inspectors not adequately facilitated to traverse the whole country. It is therefore importantly urged for the government to work with the local government officers at such instances. 

The mineral sector in Uganda hasn’t largely been tapped. For example in most parts of the country, there are occurrences of development minerals. Development Minerals are an indispensable source of employment, providing a source of livelihood to Ugandans and the government if well regulated and monitored. 

These are minerals and materials that are mined, processed, manufactured and used domestically in industries such as construction, manufacturing, and agriculture. Development Minerals have a high degree of economic linkage and utilization close to the location where the commodity is mined. Article 224 of the Mining Act 2003, although it cites these minerals, it does not accord them similar significance as the other minerals, yet they are of high commercial value.

Development minerals are regarded as Low Value Minerals and Materials (LVMM) due to their relatively low price as a function of their weight. In areas where mostly sand mining is taking place, there are issues of destruction of the environment while using complex machinery also immensely destroying he ecosystem due to lack of compliance and land evictions. 

It is going to be a hard task for the government if it doesn’t directly involve the local governments to gather royalties from the miners. It is thus paramount for the government to come up with strategies of having record of the mined minerals plus also set up guidelines on how they should levy fees from the different mining activities. 

Joseph Ahimbisibwe