In Uganda, small-scale miners face significant challenges in their daily work. The government is collaborating with the European Union (EU) to improve the situation.
In Kosiroi Village in Moroto District, workers, including children, labor for long hours in harsh conditions. They often lack basic necessities like water and food. Cement companies have been mining limestone and marble in this village for many years. Heavy trucks transport these minerals, creating dust and noise. Workers break large stone boulders into smaller pieces, which are then transported to cities for construction purposes.
In Kampala, the demand for construction materials remains high, leading to high prices for products like tiles and cement. However, the miners in Kosiroi Village struggle to make ends meet. Some, like Francis Lotita, barely cover their expenses, with the rest going towards paying employees and buying food. Workers are paid between Shs150,000 and Shs210,000 per truck, depending on the truck’s size.
In Nakabati Valley, approximately 48km west of Moroto Municipality, gold mining is a crucial income source for the Tepeth community. Around 3,500 artisanal miners work in this area, but they often face conflicts with industrial mining companies, who sometimes use force to remove them from mining areas. Poor sanitation and risky behaviors are common issues, and the informal nature of artisanal and small-scale mining in the Karamoja Sub-region creates numerous problems.
The Mining and Minerals Act of 2022 defines artisanal mining operations as those not exceeding 10 meters in depth. This sub-sector contributes significantly to Uganda’s mining industry and job creation. However, it lacks transparency.
Formal ASM operations contributed Shs713.5 million to national revenues from 2014 to 2021. The Uganda Extractives Industries Transparency Initiative (UGEITI) reports that over 80 percent of Uganda’s mining workforce is engaged in artisanal and small-scale mining. UGEITI’s report highlights issues like illegal mining, child labor, mercury use, and limited access to fair markets and financing mechanisms.
Efforts are being made to formalize artisanal and small-scale mining through the National Biometric Registration of Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (BRASM) initiative. The government is also working with the EU to support formalization efforts in the mining sector.
The new Mining and Minerals Act of 2022 aims to benefit Uganda’s mining sector by demanding technology transfer, research, recruitment, training, and the use of goods and services available in Uganda. It introduces Community Development Agreements to enhance local community development and welfare. Whether these changes will significantly improve conditions for small-scale miners remains to be seen.