Govt advised to build capacity of artisanal miners

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According to the UNDP country representative, Thomas Ole-Kuyan, development minerals such as sand, marble, kaolin, stone aggregate, clay, limestone and dimension stones can play a critical role in Uganda’s socio-economic development.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) has asked the Government to establish model mines and value chains in the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) sector, to fully exploit their potential to contribute to national development.

According to the UNDP country representative, Thomas Ole-Kuyan, development minerals such as sand, marble, kaolin, stone aggregate, clay, limestone and dimension stones can play a critical role in Uganda’s socio-economic development, but are largely ignored.

He said well-planned and executed pilot projects can help the Government to exploit the sectors full potential to contribute to poverty reduction, reducing the trade deficit and meet the current rapid urbanisation challenge.

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“The latent potential of the development minerals is big. Urbanisation rates are soaring, with a predicted urban population of 20 million by 2040, which is more than a three-fold increase from 2013.”

With the ongoing industrialisation and infrastructure development efforts, exploiting development minerals in the ASM can be a critical game changer for the Government if given attention,” Ole-Kuyan said, during the launch of the baseline assessment and value chain analysis of development minerals report at the Kampala Serena Hotel on Tuesday.

Development minerals are minerals and materials that are mined, processed, manufactured and used domestically in construction, manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture.

They are economically important because they are mined close to the local communities and thus have strong domestic economic linkages.

Uganda boasts of a diversity of development minerals, including construction minerals such as limestone, clay gypsum, marble and sand, among others. It is also home to various industrial minerals and semi-precious stones.

Ole-Kuyan said the model mines and value chains will help to improve human capital development in the artisanal mining sector and create new industries and jobs for the country’s youthful population.

He said, despite their contribution to employment, income generation, poverty reduction and sustainable livelihoods, the development minerals sector workforce, majority of who are the artisanal and small-scale miners, remain invisible.

“This situation is worsened by lack of accurate data to inform policy and programmatic actions to facilitate economic transformation and human development,” Ole-Kuyan said.

According to the Uganda Bureau of Statistics, development minerals contribute approximately 390,000 jobs, which is 7% of the Gross Domestic Product and gross $350m (sh912.5b) in value.

The baseline survey and value chain analysis was carried out in 22 districts by Levin Sources, a minerals consultancy firm contracted by  the United Nations -Africa, Caribbean and pacific development minerals programme.

Jenifer Hinton, the Levin Sources consultant, said establishment of a dedicated ASM unit at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines would help the Government to regulate the sector and continuously guide the miners in using appropriate technology and value-addition.

She also suggested the involvement of development minerals’ stakeholders in the current policy and legal reform process. The minerals policy is currently awaiting the approval of Cabinet.

On the other hand, Hinton said, unregulated extraction, limited access to capital for affordable technologies, limited human capital development and income disparity have led to under-optimisation of development minerals.

The baseline survey and value chain analysis report highlighted the best way to address the regulatory framework challenges, institutional operating context and baseline sector profile of the environmental, occupational and social impacts within the sector.

It also aimed to demonstrate the development minerals sector’s contribution to inclusive development, sustainable wealth creation and fulfillment of Uganda’s development goals.

The reports also provided more comprehensive data on the range of these natural resources, their sites of extraction and the number of people who benefit from them, especially in terms of employment.

Cedric Merel, the head of co-operation at European Union Delegation to Uganda, said the information provided by the study reports would go a long way in optimising the minerals sector in the country, if adhered to.

“This will promote human development as most of the development minerals’ mining is done by artisanal and small-scale miners, although reaping full contribution of the sector for the country’s development will require policy and legal reform,” he said.

The director of geology, directorate of geological survey and mines, Zachary Baguma, said development minerals make up 90% of materials used for construction of roads and other infrastructure.

“If fully exploited, the sector would greatly reduce the cost of infrastructure development in Uganda,” he said.

Baguma said the demand for minerals is growing and now there is need to establish the country’s reserves and how long they can last.

He also said exploiting the full potential of the development minerals would increase the statistical contribution of the minerals sector to GDP from 0.3% to between 3% and 5%.

By Edward Kayiwa