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Local governments demand exclusive rights to licence artisanal miners

Mineral–rich districts of Uganda want to be granted exclusive rights to licence and regulate artisanal miners in their respective districts.  “In the new law, licensing of artisanal miners should be made a preserve of local governments in the mining areas,” Mr. John Asiimwe, Buhweju district chairman said.  Buhweju is one the gold mining districts in the country.

Asiimwe was speaking during a consultative meeting on the Mining and Minerals Bill, 2019 at Oxford Hotel in Mbarara.  The meeting was organised by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD) in partnership with Global Rights Alert – a civil society organisation.

Asiimwe argues that the current Mining Act, 2003, centralizes licensing authority in the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) which is even under-staffed to inspect and monitor the activities of artisanal miners.

“This power [to licence artisanal miners] should be decentralised. Let licencing and regulation be left to respective districts. However, the bill maintains the old order of licensing that excludes local governments,” he emphasised.  

In its current form, the bill takes away licencing powers of the Director of the DGSM and vests them in the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development except for building substances (development minerals). Asiimwe expressed gratitude that the bill at least recognises the rights of artisanal and small scale miners. The bill establishes a framework for licensing, regulation and monitoring of artisanal mining activities and collection of revenues from artisanal miners. It replaces location licences with artisanal mining permits.

According to the bill, artisanal mining permits are a preserve of only Ugandan citizens, cooperative societies, registered associations comprising of exclusively Ugandan citizens or registered companies where 100 percent of shares are held by Ugandans.

In its current form, the bill only grants powers to local governments to licence and regulate artisanal exploitation of building substances (development minerals) in collaboration with the DGSM. Building substances also known as Low Value Minerals or development minerals include stones (quarrying), sand, clay and murram. These were previously un-regulated under the Mining Act, 2003.

ROYALTIES

Asiimwe also expressed concern over the sharing of mineral royalties. According to the Mining Act, 2003, royalties are shared among central government (80 percent), local governments (17 percent) and land owners (3 percent). The bill maintains the formulae for sharing royalties.

“What criteria were used in determining the formulae? We need an equitable format for sharing of royalties and not the central government taking everything and leaving left-overs to local governments and land owners,” Asiimwe said.

Participants in the meeting proposed a change in the formulae of sharing royalties. They proposed central government should take 50 percent, district local governments, 40 percent while the 10 percent should go to the land owners.

Vicent Kedi, the Principal Engineer in charge of mining at the DGSM welcomed proposals from stakeholders, especially mining communities.  “The draft bill is just a working document to direct discussions. Therefore, consultations are meant to come up with a document [law] that is agreeable to all Ugandans,” Kedi said. Recently, government launched national-wide consultations on the bill, before it is tabled in parliament for enactment.

By; Edward Ssekika,
Edited by Muhumuza Didas