By Rackara Emmanuel
GULU – A section of artisanal and small scale miners in northern uganda are ‘profoundly excited’ over the new draft of the mining and mineral bill released by the ministry of minerals and energy.
The proposed bill seeks to counter-handle irregularities and settle formalities in the mining industry in the country.
The mining and mineral Bill 2019, also seeks to consolidate and reform the law relating to mineral’s resources to give effect to article 244 of the Constitution.
In an interview last week, many of the artisanal miners appreciated this legal initiative saying the expeditious amendment of the new law and making reforms in the mining processes will help in appropriating the missed points and loopholes in the old mining Act 2003.
The mining Act 2003 vest the ownership and control of all minerals in Uganda in the government and provide for acquisition of mineral rights.
Steward Kidega, chairperson Bar-dege artisanal small scale miners in Gulu, said the bill is going to greatly expose them and bring them together under one umbrella as association.
He added it will help in contributing to a household development and creating employmemt opportunities.
“The Bill guarantees a platform where we can usher our voice to government,” he said, citing a scenario of grievances through a national application since the administrative structure would have been strengthened.
He, however, blames government for shunning their business for many years as something of “no benefit” yet most of the beautiful structures in the country has been their contribution from the building substances they sell.
Mr. Kidega criticised part of the new Bill, that prescribe stringent laws which attract heavy punishment and also expose government interest in taking up land indirectly but with direct control, whereby those operating in places of rich minerals shall be relocated for the benefit of the State.
The draft law encourage sumptuous levy of revenue from the local miners, meaning “if one’s business is growing, that determines how much to be taxed,” he added.
Okot Bosco Ayoli, chairperson northern Uganda small scale miners said government has given them the Act to review as members in the business and make submission and subtraction where need be.
He adds that, “government plans to see that their business is licenced and the entire process done in the district to close the cost of travelling to Kampala”.
They intends to mobilise and arrange for processing of the license, but shall ask government to give them a minimum of 5 years not like gold miners whose spell is 2 years, he noted.
He further added that government should tax them fairly since they crush these stones with their hands not with any machine and sometimes they ferry these substance from other places, “it is a genuine concern,” he observed.
Currently, Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) is doing a nation wide consultative meeting to dispell errors and bring on board very imperative inputs.
According to John Bosco Bukya, the spokesperson of Ssingo Artisanal and small-scale miners, they want to see that the new law be enacted to serve the interest of both the government and the miners and establish relevant supporting institutions.
“Therefore, the consultative engagement is for the purpose of popularising the bill and bringing close Members of Parliament to gang support for the Bill,” he added.
After the consultation and views are compiled, the Bill will be shared and consolidated as a national paper and presented to cabinet for review before submission to Parliament.
According to the available information, over 90% of the mining in Uganda is done by artisanal and small scale miners (ASM) estimated to be more than 390,000 country wide.
It’s also estimated that ASM subsector indirectly sustains close to 2000,000 Ugandan across its value chain – both backward and forward linkages.
Despite these numbers, ASM remains largely informal throughout the country and its development, contribution, risks and opportunities have been to great extent, largely invisible by the government.