sharing in governance of extractive industries
to a large extent, informal mining is a poverty-driven activity’ [Regularizing Informal Mining: A Summary of the Proceedings of the International Roundtable on Artisanal Mining, 17–19 May 1995. Barry, M., ed (1996)]
Artisanal mining in Uganda is mainly subsistence hand to mouth however, it employs more than 200,000 people in Uganda. While it doesn’t declare any royalties as it is mainly not licensed, it generates more than 90% of the mineral production.
Most artisanal miners produce industrial mineral however, there are few others involved in the production of precious metal in the areas of Namayingo, Busia, Karamoja, Mubende and Isingiro, Ntungamo. Due to the fact that the majority of the Artisanal Miners use rudimentary Methods of Mining, the possibility of injuries during mining is high. Additionally, the mining methods do not provided for the optimum use of the mineral ore effectively affecting the reserves. The gender dimension for artisanal mining tends to shift according to regions. There are more women involved in artisanal mining in the North eastern region than they are in the western region in Uganda.
ARTISANAL MINING AND THE LAW
The distinction between artisanal and small scale mining in Uganda is not defined in the law however small scale operation is defined as mining operation whose expenditure does not exceed 10 million Uganda shillings or use specialized technology.
One of the objectives of the mineral policy 2001 of Uganda is to; To regularise and improve artisanal and small scale mining. The policy then came up with strategies for this as follows;
Additionally, it is noted in the policy that significant amounts of tin, wolfram, beryl, bismuth and columbite/tantalite ores was produced by artisanal and small-scale miners-recognising their importance to the mining sector. Furthermore, the government is urged in the policy, to encourage artisanal and small scales miners to form associations and other organisations in order to improve capacity to produce and market their mineral commodities.
Small scale mining is provided for in the Mining Act 2003 by way of location licenses. This is granted for a two year period and is renewable for 2 years. While location licenses have few requirements, it is noted that there are less than 60 location licenses in Uganda. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) in a 2013 reports that there are a number of artisanal mining is taking place on exploration licenses and mining leases. In some cases, the artisans do the mining and the owner of the lease or license acts as a middleman between them and the market.
The difference in the definition of minerals between the Constitution of Uganda as amended and the Mining Act 2003 creates concern as the Constitution being the supreme law of the land, supersedes the Mining Act 2003. If in the definition of mineral, clay,murram and any stone commonly used for building are not to be considered minerals, there is need to come up with a separate regulation for them.
ARTISANAL MINING AND THE ENVIRONMENT
As in most cases Artisanal mining uses rudimentary methods, its effects on the environment tend to be adverse. In the east, a number of artisans use mercury to amalgamate gold. Unfortunately they have not been sensitized adequately about its dangers and the need to dispose it off correctly. In the west, artisanals follow quartzite veins as they look for tin and its common to find pits and trenches that are more than 10 meters deep posing serious danger to livestock and the general population. Women and children a found deep in quarries breaking up rock into aggregate size pieces in order to sale for construction.
The Potential for artisanal mining in Uganda is great and with assistance the artisanal miners can go great lengths at improving not only their livelihoods but also the flow of revenue to governments in form of royalties. The failure to regularize artisanal mining creates a big problem but one not that can be dealt with. The policy provides solutions which solutions have not been implemented by the directorate in charge.
A harmonious relationship between the artisanal miners and the large scale miners will serve to improve the mining industry in Uganda.