Civil society organisations (CSOs) have joined local governments in demanding a transparent information sharing system about the mining sector.
This is in light of the growing investments in the sector but with limited information to the various stakeholders such as local governments that are entitled to a share of the royalties from revenues collected from mineral exploitation in specific districts.
“Local Governments will continue to appeal for transparency in sharing information and records about the mining sector. As of now, we don’t know how much is collected, and the criteria for determining the royalties we in the local governments are entitled to,” said Geoffrey Wandara, the Busia district chairman.
“It is not fair to give a district, say, Shs 5 million, without letting them know how much was collected, and what percentage it is of the total collections,” the Busia LC-V chairman added.
The government is currently developing a gold mining and refinery project in Busia following the discovery of sufficient gold deposits in the eastern Uganda border district. It will be an addition to the six gold refineries that have already been established around Kampala and another in Ibanda district.
Like his counterparts from Mubende and Buhweju districts during the 4th annual citizen’s convention on mining, Wandera raised complaints against the minerals protection unit of the Police that they accused of aiding illegal mining activities and smuggling of minerals out of Uganda.
Besides the alleged smuggling of gold out of Uganda, there were also questions about the mismatch in Uganda’s gold exports vis-à-vis the imports and production.
“We are concerned that we are reading from the Auditor General, Uganda Revenue Authority and Bank of Uganda reports that Uganda is exporting more gold than we import and produce. When you are in a region that is not stable, surrounded by countries like the DRC and South Sudan that are in conflict, you begin asking yourself whether our trade in gold is contributing to destabilizing the region,” said Winfred Ngabwire, the executive director of Global Rights Alert.
United Nations panel of experts has also been on record accusing Uganda of dealing in conflict gold from the DRC and South Sudan.
“It is an area of interest that we need to investigate, but it is also possible that some of the gold could be coming from other countries in the region and it passes here. It is something we will need to investigate,” the state minister for Mineral Development, Sarah Opendi said.
The mining sector, Opendi said, is an area where government hadn’t put too much attention with most of its focus on oil and gas – a reason why there is no adequate information on how much is exploited from Uganda’s minefields.
“We need to have more of our inspectors on the ground to monitor what comes out of the mining areas because we have been relying on what has been given to us; there is a lot of gold and other minerals that go unnoticed by us,” Opendi said.
She partly blames the police’s minerals protection unit which is allegedly protecting illegal miners, an issue that she said has now been taken over by President Museveni.
Besides the presidential intervention, Opendi said, government is also working on Bill to amend the 2003 Mineral Act to streamline the management of the sector. The Bill also proposes stringent penalties for illegal miners.
“We also want to adopt the Tanzanian model of establishing mining centres which will help in organizing the sector on issues of transparency so that government can get what it is supposed to get. Miners will be required to take whatever minerals they pick to centre for testing, weighing and eventually sold to exporters,” she said.