By John Ogulei
A section of Clan heads in Teso Sub Region and the Soroti City leadership have opposed the government move to issue small scale licenses for building substances.
The Government, through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development in July 2019, developed a new Mining and Minerals policy with an aim of strengthening the mining sector in Uganda.
The law seeks to regulate substances which were excluded in the definition of minerals in the Constitution and are often referred to as development minerals including: sand, clay, murram and stones which when exploited on a profitable basis can be categorized as mining.
Speaking to this website, Ivan Okello, one of the clan chairpersons in Kamuda Sub County, Soroti District says the decision by government to issue small scale licenses for building substances will deprive the local people of their land rights.
“Land ownership in Teso is customary and by government saying that the license shall be granted under the system of first come, first served in accordance with this Act, as area locals we may not be in position to get the licenses because the rich ones are going to get opportunity to first register to mine our assets,” Okello said.
Whereas he admits that the government needs to generate revenue in order to enable the smooth running of the country, to him the decision isn’t right as locals need to be sensitized on the benefits of licensing the building substances.
“Am not saying the law is bad but it has come at the wrong time. The COVID-19 crisis is still looming and the government needs to conduct thorough consultations before making a bold decision. Government also needs to know that it is through the sale of sand, clay, murram and stones that people get alternative ways of survival, so by issuing licenses the local people won’t get help,” he added.
Over 90% of mining in Uganda is done by artisanal and small-scale miners and it’s also estimated that the sub-sector sustains close to two million Ugandans across its various value chains. This is according to the Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) report of 2019.
James Olupot of the Ikomolo clan in Mukongoro Sub County Kumi wondered why the government was interested in licensing small scale miners.
“So the sand, clay, murram and stones on our land is not ours? Government needs to rethink its decision on building substances,” Olupot said. Adding that, “I don’t have any big problem with the law provided that there is balanced or equal distribution of taxpayers’ money.”
Martine Ochom popularly known as Kengere the owner of Moru Stone quarrying in Soroti town told this website that the 2019 policy will affect his operations and his 20 staff may have to lose their jobs.
“I may not be in position to get an operational license because of my little capital and my staff will be rendered jobless,” Ochom said.
Samuel Eyobu, the Soroti West Division Mayor has however asked the government to create laws that promote meaningful investment in the mining sector.
“We must generate a law that interests serious investors that will create good jobs for our people in the mining industry. Uganda has huge mineral potential and if exploited and revenues well managed, the country can gain economic growth and development but the weak regulations are slowing development of the sub-sector.
Paul Omer, the Soroti City Interim Mayor blames the government over its failure to support the mining and minerals sector which has seen the sector being fully occupied by Artisan and small scale miners.
Omer says that the Government of Uganda has not put much emphasis on the Mineral and Mining sector yet the sector has the potential to contribute greatly in the country’s economy while asking the government to revisit its minerals and mining policy of 2019 on issuing licenses for building substances.
“The Government is focusing more on the Oil and Gas sector which cannot easily be penetrated by local Ugandans because of its complication,” Omer said.
But according to the Minister of State for Mineral Development, Sarah Opendi Achieng, the current law is outdated and cannot address the key challenges affecting the development of the mining sector.
According to Opendi, the new bill will address issues related to environmental protection, regulating artisanal miners among other issues in the Industry.
She noted that the mining sector has attracted many actors but most of them have ended up degrading and polluting the Environment.
“Miners are using outdated means of mining that has left our environment degraded since the old law is quiet on environmental issues especially when it comes to artisanal and small scale miners,” she added.