Civil Society Activists Urge Government to Expedite Mineral Policy Review Process

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As a result, the civil society activists have tasked government to hasten the ongoing review of the mining policy review. They want government to make favorable mining policies and laws to cater for the incessant land wrangles, to increase royalty take and include artisanal miners.

 Uganda has over 3500 minerals, according to information obtained from the department of Geological Survey and Mines. 40 of the 3500 minerals are commercially viable. Uganda has 116 billion tonnes of iron ore with a gross value of US $15.6 billion, 7.8m ounces of Gold with a gross value of US $11 billion, 55 million tonnes of vermiculite with a gross value of $11.5b, rare earths with gross value estimated at US $500b and 300 million tonnes of Limestone.

 
However, the sector is yet to receive the attention it deserves from government. Civil society activists accuse government of neglecting the sector, which has the potential of turning around the lives of many Uganda through creating employment and increasing revenues significantly and focused all its efforts towards the oil and gas sector. As a result, the civil society activists have tasked government to hasten the ongoing review of the mining policy review. 



They want government to make favorable mining policies and laws to cater for the incessant land wrangles, to increase royalty take and include artisanal miners. But Gabriel Data, a senior geologist at the department says there is no need for worry since government is committed to lifting the mineral sector to the level it deserves. While addressing participants at the meeting convened by the civil society to generate views to incorporate in the policy, he said the ongoing policy review, which will be concluded in February next year will address the setbacks derailing the sector and create a favorable environment for it to flourish.


He says the review will solve a lot of problems adding that, the country needs an updated mineral policy because the current one is over 10 years old.  According to Data, government has also addressed the problem of geological data and personnel. The stake holders want the review to address issues concerning land ownership and compensation in the areas where minerals have been discovered. 


They note that the compensation process hasn't been well managed, which they claim has deprived people of their land unfairly and left many landless. Ellady Muyambi, one of the activists wants residents to reserve the rights on mineral arguing that, government hasn't managed the sector and compensation process properly. The constitution says land belongs to the people but article 244 says government will manage the minerals on behalf of the people. 

Muyambi says there will always be disputes if land is put in the hands of the people when they are denied rights over what is underneath it. But Data doesn't think that this is a solution saying it will worsen the situation because the country would be in total chaos if the minerals were vested in the hands of the citizens. Data also argues that it would be difficult to vest minerals with the people as government needs to use the proceeds from the minerals to develop other sectors. 


Steven Turyahikayo, a technical advisor at GeoTraceAbility argues that putting minerals in the hands of government minimizes chaos, curbs inequality and creates development for all people. David Otim from SafeWorld also says it would be disastrous to put minerals in the hands of the people and so does Amnon Bwoch the Vice Chairman of Abim District's mineral watch platform. They argue that there will be conflicts where minerals are discovered in land that belongs to more than one person.


They think the problems of land and compensation can be managed by harmonizing mining laws with the land laws. The activists' also raised the issue of loyalties arguing that the percentage share of land owners should be raised. They also want land owners to be given a right to participate before royalty is determined. Data says all those issues will be addressed once the mining policy and laws are reviewed.  Under revision is the mining policy of 2001, the mining act 2003 and mining regulations 2004.