The government has been asked to disclose the earnings from mineral deals as well as exports if the country is to benefit from the available resources and end alleviate poverty.
Addressing journalists on Monday about the recently passed Mining and Minerals Bill 2021, the leader of the National Economic Empowerment Dialogue (NEED), Mr Joseph Kabuleta, said the only way the Bill can benefit Ugandans is if the government is transparent.
“If we are to go by this law, all municipalities will be rich. However, that will depend on whether the government is going to declare how much they are getting from these minerals so that every beneficiary knows that for example if I am getting 15 percent, it is 15 percent of what,” Mr Kabuleta said.
Mr Kabuleta also urged beneficiaries to ensure they find out the incomes from the minerals before taking whatever share the government presents to them.
In an interview with this publication, the Leader of Opposition in Parliament, Mr Mathias Mpuuga, said the declaration of available minerals by the government should be the first step.
“Most important public benefit is the declaration of available minerals. Secondly, once the declaration is made it will be easy to plan for revenue generation. Illicit mining by cartels, illicit licensing will be curtailed and artisanal miners will have a window to have their efforts streamlined,” Mr Mpuuga said.
He added: “There is no way we can’t talk about transparency where the licensing regime had been appropriated by a cartel. The very reason the Bill was tabled was to in part deal with the dark cloud around the sector.”
Ms Jean Namatovu, a lawyer, said: “A Bill that is not yet law is hard to discuss. The Bill, if passed, will repeal the Mining Act 2003 which is beneficial to the sector because initially, the State took 80 percent, now it’s taking 65 percent. However, the challenge is going to be curbing irregularities and ensuring transparency on all fronts. If the government genuinely declares the incomes from minerals, then we shall be able to deal with the discrepancies in the sector.”
The Uganda Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative report 2020 revealed that there were major discrepancies between the export and local production of gold (currently Uganda’s biggest mineral export). The report stated that the gold being exported is not produced within the local mining areas. Gold and cobalt account for more than 95 percent of all mineral exports from Uganda
Other minerals mined in Uganda, according to the Uganda Investment Authority, include beryllium, bismuth, copper, iron ore, lithium, tin, as well as non-metallic minerals such as graphite, talc, phosphate, and gypsum.
Uganda’s mineral export stands at Shs180b as reported by the Ministry of Finance.
About the bill
The Mining and Minerals Bill 2021 was passed by Parliament on February 17 and once signed by the President will repeal the Mining Act of 2003.
The Bill in part declares that where minerals are discovered and sold/exported, the government retains 65 percent, the municipality/district local government gets 20 percent, the sub-county/county gets 10 percent while the owner of the land where the minerals were discovered gets five percent.
The Bill also introduces a competitive bidding licensing regime for existing mining projects while maintaining the first come first serve mode of licensing for new projects.
The National Mining Company (NMC) has also been created to cater for the commercial interests of the government in all mining projects
A person who commits an offence under this law is liable to fines ranging from Shs60 to Shs500 million or imprisonment terms of between two and seven years or both.