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UGANDA: Cabinet approves new mining policy – good for artisanal, small scale miners LONG READ

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OILINUGANDA.COM – After five years of rigorous review process, cabinet has finally approved the new Minerals and Mining Policy 2018. The policy is meant to guide Uganda’s mineral’s sector and address the gaps in the mining laws.The policy looks at the need to support formalization and regulation of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining to ensure they optimally benefit from mineral wealth, protect the environment and mitigate health, safety and environmental impacts associated with mining. It also focuses on mainstreaming gender equity, human rights and inclusiveness in the mineral sector as well as the need to enhance local and national participation.

In particular, the policy proposes to support formalization and regulation of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining and facilitates their access to credit. “From the current illegal 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 illegally mined per month by ASMs” the policy reads in part.

The large informal Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) has become a major player in the mining subsector employing a large number of people in many areas of the country, mainly in panning for gold, gemstone mining. Although ASM is an income generating activity benefiting low income and vulnerable groups, the nature of their operations remain largely informal and illegal, characterized with smuggling, tax evasion, health and safety risks, socio-cultural dislocations, conflict among the mineral operators, loss of revenue, environmental degradation and a variety of illicit activities.

Therefore, the policy 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.

The new policy is expected to inform the proposed amendment to Mining Act, 2003 and address the gaps existing in Uganda’s mining laws. It also commits state and non- state actors to promote transparency, accountability and public participation in management of mineral revenues for improvement of livelihoods through creation of jobs for Ugandans.

If well implemented, the Policy, shall see Uganda’s mining industry jubilate particularly Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASM) as well as women and children in mining, who have been singled out as a group to recognize in their efforts to earn a living from the mining sector in Uganda

It is key on mainstreaming gender equity because women and children are increasingly getting involved in the extractive industry especially in artisanal and small-scale mining. Women are often overlooked by initiatives and development programs directed at transforming the mining sector and child labour too is prevalent thus, the need to enforce appropriate child labor laws. The Policy calls for a liaison framework that ensures that women, youth and persons with disabilities are able to efficiently and effectively inform its decisions, policies and programmes in mining needs.

“The Government will ensure equitable access to the benefits of resource development and that they are within reach to all categories of Ugandans,” the policy reads in part.

The Policy also puts in place another ally for the ASMs: The Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP) which is the umbrella body that brings together all operators –small and large in the mining and petroleum sector. UMCP, with collective support of its members will play the role of lobbying, promoting, encouraging, protecting and fostering responsible exploration & mining, to support the growth and development of Uganda’s extractive sector for the benefit of all Ugandans and investors.

What was wrong with the Mineral Policy 2001

Prior to this policy, there was a Mineral Policy of Uganda 2001, which lacked alignment to the national development frameworks as well as the constitutional amendment provisions. This framework neither recognized some minerals that add value to the country nor looked at women as key players in the sector. It also ignored the issue of child labour in the mining areas.

It primarily recognized big mining companies and investors, and negated small scale and artisan miners. It was therefore an outdated, inadequate, ineffective and inefficient framework that was not well aligned to the national aspirations and Constitution. It is against this background that the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, appointed a task force including civil society organisations among them, ActionAid Uganda to steer the review process of the Mining and Mineral Policy and the Mining Act, 2003.

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.

Mubende evicted gold miners cry foul over President’s new directive

In a new twist, President Museveni has directed that 30% of AUC Mining Ltd exploration area be granted to Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners and not evicted artisanal miners

Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (ASMs) in Mubende district are crying foul over President Yoweri Museveni’s letter that they argue negates on all the pledges he has made to them. In a letter dated April 6, 2018, the President directed Irene Muloni, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development to renew exploration licence of AUC Mining (U) Limited in Bukuya and Kitumbi sub counties in Mubende district. The company is linked to bush war heroine and presidential advisor, Gertrude Njuba.

“On 13th, June 2017, I chaired a meeting at State House to discuss the challenges miners were facing in Mubende district following the occupation of the mining areas by illegal miners. The meeting was attended by government officials and directors of AUC Mining (U) Ltd,” President Museveni wrote.

He added, “During the meeting, the company requested among others, for the renewal of their exploration license areas in Mubende district where exploration work was disturbed by illegal miners. The company requested that 100% of their license locations renewed for a period of 5 years as compensation for the time lost and for spoilt work,”

In addition to renewing the licence to three more years, President Museveni also directed as part of the conditions for the renewal that AUC Mining (U) Ltd cedes 30 percent of its exploration licence area to Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners and not to the evicted miners.

“In order to give some compensation to the Company and also renew the licence in accordance with the law, I, therefore, direct that you renew the licence to cover 70% of their applied working areas and for period of 3 years. The remaining 30% of the working area should be given to the Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners. I am informed that this Federation was formed immediately after the illegal miners were expelled from AUC Exploration Licence area in Mubende last year and they include the land and bibanja owners of the area,” the letter concludes.

By the letter, the President however, ignored pleas from the evicted miners to have them re-instated to their former mines. The letter is copied to the Vice President, the Minister of Finance and the Attorney General among others. The directive runs contrary to the Mining Act, 2003 that places such mandate of determining and issuance of the mineral licenses in the Commissioner (Director) of the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM).

LEFT IN THE COLD

The President’s directive has left evicted artisanal and small scale miners in the cold. Last year, more than 60,000 artisanal and small scale gold miners in Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties in Mubende district were evicted from the mines arguing that they were illegal. The artisanal miners claim that during the October 2017 meeting at State House, the President pledged to ensure all registered associations that had applied for location licenses to be licenced and supported financially. However, the president’s directive does not refer to the pledges made then.

Soon after the eviction, artisanal gold miners in the district formed an umbrella association of all artisanal mining associations in the district – Mubende United Miner’s Association (MUMA) to follow up on the presidential pledges.

In response to the directive, Mubende United Miners Assembly has written to the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development, Irene Muloni rejecting the grant of 30 percent of AUC’s exploration area to the Federation of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners. They argue that they are not members of the federation, but they should instead be considered.

“While in State House last year, it was resolved that those associations that had applied for location licenses before the eviction be licensed and all these are subscribers to Mubende United Miners Association,” the letter from MUMA reads in part.

“By giving 30% to the Federation shows that the company has not surrendered anything since AUC Mining (U) Ltd is a mother of the federation. We therefore request that before the 30 percent is given away, you cause a meeting between the leadership of MUMA, the Federation, Honourable Peter Lokeris and the technical persons at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines [DGSM] for harmonisation,” Bukya John Bosco wrote on behalf of MUMA in the letter. The artisanal miners argue that the federation is headed by Stella Njuba – a daughter to Gertrude Njuba, the Director of AUC Mining (U) Ltd.

Overall, the struggle for mining and ownership rights in Mubende is still raging and it will take all interested parties to get on a round table and resolve all the issues before final agreement on a win-win outcome benefiting all parties.

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