The latest government ambition to register all artisanal and small scale miners in Uganda has been looked at as a programme that will improve management of the mining sector, harmonize and formalize Artisanal and Small Scale Mining (ASM) activities in the country.
Government last month with the help of Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy (ACEMP) and Action Aid Uganda launched the Biometric Registration of Artisanal and Small Scale Miners (BRASSM) in Uganda at Royal Suites Hotel in Bugolobi.
The system will capture the biometric data of Ugandan artisanal miners who will be given identification numbers according to their mining zones. Foreign artisanal miners will not be registered, instead they will now have to apply for mining licenses just like foreign companies do. By doing this, the system will protect local artisanal miners from foreigners.
The Minister of State for Mineral Development Hon. Peter Lokeris while officiating at the launch of BRASSM revealed that over one million Ugandans directly or indirectly benefit from ASM operations despite being portrayed by its negative impacts. He explained that there is need to understand and address the structural challenges faced by artisanal miners in order to improve the sector’s opportunities.
The Minister pointed out the challenges faced by the ASM sector as inadequate regulation, local politics, nomadic way of ASM operations, influx of foreigners, insecurity, environmental degradation, use of hazardous chemicals such as mercury and cyanide, lack of technical & financial capacity and lost revenue opportunities for government.
“These structural problem need to be addressed for ASM to contribute to social and economic development of the country,” the Minister told the congregation dominated by ASMs from across the country at the launch. BRASSM will address some of these challenges weeding out foreigners, access to financing and address issues of insecurity.
WHO WILL BE REGISTERED?
For miners to be registered, they must be adult Ugandans, registered under a mining association, living in a mining zone, with a national identity card (Ndagamuntu) and a practicing miner. No individual will be registered under BRASSM unless they are applying for mining licenses as a company.
Mr. Don Bwesigye Binyina, the Executive Director of Africa Centre for Energy and Mineral Policy, the implementing agency, said the BRASSM project will enhance quality of life for miners so as to increase their contribution to Uganda’s sustainable development.
Mr. Zachary Baguma a commissioner at Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development said government wants to identify and know these miners so that they can be mobilized and enhance their capacities through trainings, financing and monitoring.
RESTRICTED MOVEMENT OF MINERS
The registration of miners will also restrict their movement. This means that if a miner is registered in Busia, he or she cannot relocate to Mubende. This, Mr. Baguma said is aimed at combating migrating miners. “If you are licensed in Mubende and not in Mityana, then you should not go to mine in Mityana,” Mr. Baguma said.
This however didn’t go down well with miners at the launch who said restricting their movements would limit their production. Mr. Mathias Aroba, a miner and treasury at Tiira Small Scale Miners association in Busia District said many people will not register with that kind of restriction. He advised that people who should be restricted are the dealers instead of miners.
But ACEMP’s Mr. Bwesigye said this kind of restriction will help government to track miners and collect taxes from them, help in addressing issues of conflict and security and to ensure that the resources benefit indigenous people or residents of that particular mining zone.
Mr. Baguma said that while official steps for anybody to change his registered BRASSM license, they will need to prove that they have not destroyed the environment in the place they have been working in. “Before you move, you must restore the mining holes. The place you are leaving behind must environmentally happy,” he said.
ARTISANAL MINING’S BIG POTENTIAL
Hon. Lokeris reiterated that the government recognizes the potential of ASM and what it can contribute to the local economic development if well regulated. He acknowledged that ASM can create jobs especially in rural areas, improve livelihoods and control rural-urban migration. Therefore to the ministry is implementing a Mineral Wealth and Mining Infrastructure Development Project that is aimed at development of an effective ASM Management Strategy to address ASM challenges.
Hon. Lokeris said together with ACEMP MEMD will map, register and come up with an effective management strategy for development of ASM sector. Under this collaboration both parties will improve ASM management strategy, undertake BRASSM by working with National Identification Registration Authority (NIRA) and National Information Technology Authority of Uganda (NITA-U).
They will develop mechanisms to regulate ASM movements, identify relevant stakeholders for ASM consultations, analyze and provide a baseline profile for ASM sector, develop a tool for monitoring, evaluation and improvement of ASM practices and develop a mechanism to control use of hazardous chemicals by ASM, among others.
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