Study shows Uganda’s vast mineral riches

Friday August 31 2012

The government has discovered new deposits of high-value minerals in various parts of the country, this newspaper can reveal.

 

By TABU BUTAGIRA

The government has discovered new deposits of high-value minerals in various parts of the country, this newspaper can reveal.

Official documents show that airborne geological surveys, aided with on-site scientific assessments, have provided evidence about the existence of gold deposits in Arua, Hoima, Masindi and Buhweju districts as well as Karamoja, eastern and south-eastern sub-regions.

Details of the latest findings (see map) are partly contained in a briefing document that Uganda Chamber of Mines & Petroleum has prepared about an international conference on the country’s mineral wealth due October 1-2.

Bureaucrats in the Ministry of Energy and Minerals Developments declined to speak on the record over the latest discoveries, referring this newspaper to the Permanent Secretary Frederick Kabagambe-Kaliisa. The PS was unavailable for comment.

The mineral mapping shows the existence of nickel-platinum group metals in Iganga District; base metals, chromite and marble in Karamoja; gold, base metals, rare earth elements, carbonatites and kimberlites in eastern and south-western regions; iron ore in Mayuge and diatomite in Pakwach.

“It is true we have discovered those minerals,” a senior government official said on condition of anonymity. “It still requires substantial work, including exploration, to ascertain their quantities and economic value.”

These minerals are used in various industrial and commercial applications worldwide, and global competition for the most-valued and increasingly scarce resources has seen the West’s renewed interest in Africa.

Occurrence and quantity of the minerals in the identified areas is yet to be confirmed, a senior government official said. Whereas some of these gems command high prices on the global market, the value of others have since plummeted, clouding the prospects of a windfall for the country that already has a confirmed 2.5 billion barrels of oil deposits.

Organisers say the planned two-day ‘mineral wealth’ conference in Kampala, due in four weeks, is to gather international stakeholders in the mining industry to share cutting-edge technologies and information on investment opportunities.

It is not clear why government, which is co-organising the October conference, has not made this information publicly available to Ugandans. Highly-placed sources said the Energy and Mineral Development ministry is finalising the report on the latest mineral findings and, working with a UK firm, plan to convene an international energy and mining exhibition and conference sometime in May, 2013.

This newspaper understands that the discovery of the prized stones followed a five-year airborne geological survey exercise sponsored by the World Bank, the African Development Bank, Nordic Development Fund and Uganda government.

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