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Relief for ASMs as Cabinet Approves the New Mining Policy

President Yoweri Museveni. Photo from Galaxy FM 100.2

After five years of rigorous review process, cabinet has finally approved the new Mining and Minerals Policy 2018. The policy is meant to guide developments in Uganda’s minerals and mining sub-sector and address the gaps in the existing legal and regulatory framework governing mining in Uganda.

The new policy looks at the need to support formalization and regulation of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining so as to ensure that they optimally benefit from the mining activities, 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 along the mining value chain.

In particular, the policy proposes to support formalization and regulation of Artisanal and Small Scale Mining and facilitate the miners under the former realm to access credit to be able to facilitate their activities. This will also enhance revenue generation for the government thereby increasing funds for development activities since revenue losses caused by illegal mining and trading will be checked properly going forward.

“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 and traded per month by ASMs”, the policy reads in part.

The large informal Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) segment has become a major player in the mining sub-sector, employing a large number of people (including woment and youth) in many areas of the country, mainly in panning for gold, and gemstone mining among others. Although ASM is an income generating activity benefiting low income and vulnerable groups (especially women and youth), 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 to the government, environmental degradation and a variety of illicit activities among others.

Therefore, the policy proposes the establishment of an ASM Fund to support lending schemes and protection of artisanal and small-scale miners and facilitate access to land for artisanal and small scale mining as well as establish an enabling framework for the same.

The new policy is expected to inform the proposed amendment to Mining Act, 2003 and address the gaps existing in Uganda’s mining legal and regulatory framework. 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 Mining (ASM) segment as well as women and young people in mining, who have been singled out as a group to recognize in their efforts to earn a living from the mining sub-sector in Uganda

The new policy is keen on mainstreaming gender equity because women and young people 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 sub-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 to be put in place.

The policy highlights the promotion of equitable benefit distribution to enable enhancement of livelihoods of Ugandans. “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 a collaborative mechanism 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 sub-sectors. 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 Mining Policy 2003?

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 labor as a serious challenge in the mining areas.

It primarily recognized big mining companies and investors, and negated artisanal and small scale miners. It was therefore an outdated, inadequate, ineffective and inefficient framework that was not well aligned to the national aspirations and the Constitution. It is against this background that the Government through the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, appointed a task force including civil society organizations among them was ActionAid Uganda, to steer the review process of the Mining and Mineral Policy 2001 and the Mining Act, 2003.

Key reforms in the policy;

ü  It proposes the establishment of an ASM Fund to support artisanal and small scale miners;

ü  It proposes the establishment of the Mining Tribunal to arbitrate minerals and mining disputes;

ü  It proposes the establishment of the Mineral Audit Agency to assess royalties payable, revenue distribution and management among others;

ü  It recommends the establishment of a Mineral Reserve Fund where revenues from minerals will be collected;

ü  It proposes the establishment of the Local Content Development Fund in the mining and minerals  sub-sector for skills and enterprise development;and Establishes a committee to review and evaluate applications for mineral rights.

Click here to view and download the Minerals and Mining Policy 2018

Flavia Nalubega and Edward Ssekika