Uganda is among six beneficiaries of a €13m (Shs58b) grant from the European Union under the ACP-EU development minerals programme, a pioneering three-year, multi-country initiative, to build the profile and improve the management of development minerals in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific.
The grant, according to the ministry of Energy’s principal mining engineer Vincent Kedi, is aimed at improving the policy and regulatory environment arpund development minerals, minimising environmental impacts on communities, addressing individual and community rights, and preventing conflict.
Development minerals are minerals and materials that are mined, processed, manufactured and used domestically in industries such as construction, manufacturing, infrastructure and agriculture.
These include among others dimension stones – rocks quarried for the purpose of obtaining blocks or slabs that meet specifications such as granite, marble, slate, and sandstone; industrial minerals – substance of economic value, exclusive of metal ores, and gemstones such as barite, bentonite, borates, calcium carbonate, clays, diatomite, feldspar, granite, silica, soda ash, and zeolite.
Speaking at the launch of the “Baseline Assessment and Value Chain Analysis of Development Minerals in Uganda” report on Tuesday, Mr Kedi said the grant will also be used by the small scale and artisanal miners as “a guarantee to access financing from financial institutions”, the details of which are still being worked out.
He added that its implementation is to start in the next few weeks.
“The baseline assessment provides an indepth analysis of the development minerals sector which had been neglected for a while because few knew its impact,” Masaba Yusuf, a communications specialist at the energy ministry told this website. “The ministry is currently reviewing the mining policy and this report has come at the right time to give government a clearer picture of the development minerals sector.”
He added: “We are going to include all the development minerals in the new bill and these will be regulated by the ministry of energy and mineral development so that we can have them mined sustainably since they are a finite resource.”
The report is split into two sections – a market study providing an overarching picture of the development minerals market in Uganda, and specific value chain analyses of 4 focus minerals – clay, sand, stone aggregate and dimension stones – chosen from the 8 minerals covered in the Baseline Assessment.
The report also outlines the main characteristics, challenges and opportunities of the Ugandan development minerals sector, covering 8 minerals that commonly occur in the country. This study, on the other hand, expounds the value chain aspects of the sector, examining its macro- and micro-economic characteristics, impacts, challenges and opportunities.
According to the report, development minerals fit into the government’s policy blueprints of strengthening Uganda’s competitiveness for sustainable wealth creation, employment and inclusive growth.
“The report will also help government adress the gender disparity in the artisanal mining sector,” Mr Masaba said. The development minerals sector employs 39,000 Ugandans, with women making up 46% of the figure. “However, women’s take-home pay and share doesn’t reflect and match with their numbers.”
He added that the ministry will “empower women and the youth” to benefit more from the sector, with part of the programme funds going to training the two groups.
“Development Minerals are poised to substantially contribute to these endeavours,” the report reads in part. Public investments in roads, bridges and hydroelectric dams coupled with escalating demands for housing and other key products present important opportunities for Uganda’s development minerals sector.”
The report adds that “at 6% growth per annum, the construction sector continues to be strong and, with it, a market for a broad range of “building minerals” including sand, clay, limestone, marble, kaolin and sources of stone aggregate .
“Agriculture, which provides a source of livelihood for 65% of Uganda’s labour force and constitutes 26% of the GDP will increasingly call for a range of agromineral inputs, such as phosphates, vermiculite and lime, as needed to spur agricultural production, to counter depleting soil fertility and to maintain food security.”
It adds that other sectors “such as plastics, pharmaceuticals and oil well drilling that also contribute to industrialization objectives, require salt, kaolin and bentonite, respectively, providing a glimpse into the range of industrial applications of Development Minerals.”