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Mining in Uganda Notes

  • Mining refers to all the processes through which both metallic and non-metallic materials are extracted from the earth’s crust. A mineral is any naturally formed element or composition.
  • Metallic ores in Uganda include copper, lead, silver, tin, cobalt, wolfram, iron ore, etc.
  • Non-metallic ores include phosphates, limestone, mica, salt, sand, asbestos, clay, gypsum, oil, potash and zinc.
  • The major minerals in Uganda include limestone, asbestos and phosphates at Hima and Tororo, copper and cobalt in Kasese, iron ore, tin and wolfram in Kabale and Kigezi areas, salt in Katwe, sand and clay along L. Victoria shores, petroleum, natural gas and Kaolin in Albertine region, vermiculite and gold in noth east and eastern Uganda, mica and gold in Mubende, etc.

Map of Uganda locating major mineral deposits.

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The status of Uganda‘s mining sector.

  • Mining in Uganda is mainly carried out on small scale using rudimentary tools especially iron ore and tin in Kabale-Kisoro, sand and clay in L. Victoria shores.
  • Vermiculite and gold are now the leading mineral exports and mining companies are foreign owned.
  • Oil drilling in Albertine graben is at infant stage and limestone at Hima and Tororo, copper in Kasese is declining.
  • Quarrying of stones, sand and clay is dominant.

     

Methods used in mining

There are mainly three methods used to extract minerals in Uganda and these include;

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  1. Open cast method which is used to extract minerals buried near the surface like limestone at Tororo and Hima, sand and clay at Kajjansi and Butende and stone quarrying in Ntugamo.
  2. Tunnel or adit method, this is used to mine minerals buried deep in the earth crust. It involves the construction of tunnels to reach the mineral bearing rocks like copper and cobalt mining in Kilembe-Kasese.
  3. Alluvial mining method, this is used for mining minerals like gold as it is in Buhwenju-Bushenyi and Karamoja region.

Factors which influenced the development of mining in Uganda

  • Availability of large capital base to invest in the mining sector provided by the Ugandan government and foreign investors.
  • Presence of a high level of skilled labour force in form of technicians, engineers and mineral explorers within Uganda and others imported from abroad.
  • Presence of large semi-skilled labour supply especially from the densely populated areas. These provide support in sand, clay, stone quarrying, limestone and copper mining in different areas of mining in Uganda.
  • Ready market for mineral products within Uganda like market of minerals such as sand, clay products, limestone (cement) and foreign market for gold, cobalt, vermiculite, copper, etc.
  • Some minerals in Uganda such as limestone, sand, clay appear in large quantities and of high grade which becomes economical for their exploitation. This explains why there is prospering limestone mining in Tororo and Hima.
  • Improved transport network of roads, water, air and mainly railway line which has helped to transport bulky copper and cobalt of Kilembe-Kasese, cement, etc.
  • Some minerals in Uganda appear near the surface like limestone at Hima, stones in Kabale, clay and sand in Lweza-Wakiso, which has encouraged their exploitation since it becomes cheaper to mine them.
  • The presence of a peaceful political climate since 2007 when the ADF and LRA were finally defeated. This has attracted foreign investor in the mining sector.

Factors hindering effective exploitation of mineral resource in Uganda

  • Low levels of technology know-how which has led to limited research and exploration of mineral resource thus inadequate knowledge of mineral resources.
  • Limited capital to invest in the mining industry since it requires a lot of capital for mineral extraction and paying of labourers.
  • Shortage of skilled labour force required in the mining industry such as engineers, miners and other semi- skilled labour to support the industry is limited.
  • Most of the mineral resources in Uganda appear in small quantities and are of low quality and this make them un-economical for mining.
  • Most minerals like copper at Kilembe-Kasese are buried deep underground and it becomes expensive to extract them since it requires the use of tunnel or adit mining.
  • The minerals in Uganda are located in remote and inaccessible areas, of seasonal roads like tin and iron ore in Kisoro, which makes their exploitation un-economical.
  • Price fluctuations of mineral products on world market because most minerals are of low grade and this discourage their mining like copper in Kasese.
  • Political instabilities of ADF and LRA which disturbed Uganda for a long time scared foreign investors in the mining industry. This also led to break down of infrastructure and drained government treasury thus low development of the mining industry.
  • Minerals like gold in Mubende occur in small quantity such that it is un-economical to mine.
  • Smuggling of minerals across boarders like gold which is usually smuggled to Kenya leading to loss of revenue.
  • Un-healthy mining conditions due to fumes and poor ventilation with in mines like limestone at Hima. This affects workers in the mines leading to loss on lives.
  • Hostile tribes like the Karamajong people who have limited exploitation of gold in the region.
  • Corruption and embezzlement of funds by the government officials like as it was in Kilembe where copper pyrites were embezzled.
  • Profit repartriation by foreign mining companies such as larfage of Hima cement and Kirembe mines thus low development.

     

Importance of the mining sector to Uganda‘s development

  • It has earned Uganda foreign exchange through exportation of minerals like copper by 2003/2004. The exchange earned has been used to for further development.
  • The mining industry has provided employment opportunities to Ugandans. Today the industry is estimated to employ more than 15,000 people and by 1970s Kirembe copper mine were employing thousands of Bakiga and Bakonjo, thus earning income for better standards of living.
  • Mining facilitates urbanization in Uganda, foristance Kasese, Kirembe and Katwe towns grew up as a result of copper and salt mining. Also Tororo and Hima towns from limestone mining and prospects of Masindi and Hoima to develop due to oil exploitation.
  • The industry leads to development of important infrastructure of roads, railway, electricity, education and health facilities. Foristance Kirembe mines Secondary School in Kasese, Jinja-Kampala-Kasese railway line to transport copper, all these leads to further development of Uganda.
  • Mining industry provides market to agricultural products of food to feed the workers in the mines; this explains why the mubuku irrigation scheme was set up in Kasese to produce constant food supply to workers in Kirembe mines.
  • It has helped to diversify Uganda‘s economy and has avoided over dependency on agricultural sector. This means there is increased foreign exchange, income and general development of the country.
  • It has improved on Uganda‘s international relationship with mineral importers such as China and USA. This has lead to political stabilities and encouraged international trade.
  • The mining industry has fetched a lot of revenue to the government treasury through licenses given to mining companies and taxing miners. The revenue has been used to set up schools and health units.
  • It has led to industrialization in Uganda with industries like Hima and Tororo cement industries which use limestone mineral.
  • Mining has boosted the tourism sector through attracting foreign tourists for copper, iron ore, salt, etc thus earning Uganda foreign exchange.

Negative importance of mining in Uganda includes;

  • Mineral extraction machines and process emit fumes which pollute the atmospheric air. This explains why Kasese, Hima and Tororo experience a dirty contaminated air.
  • Mining disturbs the soil structure by digging it which destroy the land. Open cast pits normally encourage the occurrence of severe soil erosion as it is in Tororo.
  • The soil erosion which has occurred due to mining activities has led to siltation of river valleys causing floods which has resulted into water borne diseases like bilharzias, typhoid and cholera.
  • The open cast pits left behind and filled with water have become breeding grounds for dangerous pests like mosquitoes which cause malaria and this has been witnessed in Rukungiri gold mines.
  • Clay and sand mining mainly in Kajjansi has reclaimed wetlands which has endangered animals which have their habitats in swampy areas.
  • During the establishment of mines, large portions of forests have been cleared. It is estimated that Kirembe mines cleared a lot of forest cover on the foot of Mt. Rwenzoi.
  • It has increased on population within the mining areas which has led to urbanization of such regions. However the population pressure in such areas has got negative effects like robbery and theft, slum growth and prostitution, increasing cost of living and yet there high rates of unemployment

Copper mining in Kilembe-Kasese

Copper mining in Uganda started by 1957 and reached its peak by 1965. However copper in Kirembe went on declining through years. Today the once Kirembe copper mines are turned into cobalt mines.

Factors that favoured cupper mining in Uganda

  • Cupper existed in large quantities estimated at 12.7 million tones and of high grade i.e. 2.2% pure copper which made it economical to be mined.
  • Availability of plenty of water supply for copper processing from rivers such as Mubuku, Nyamwamba, etc which originated from Mt. Rwenzori melting snow.
  • Presence of cheap HEP supply generated from Owen falls dam in Jinja and this was supplemented on by Mubuku power station constructed on R. Mubuku which helped in mining activities.
  • Availability of adequate capital provided by the Canadian Frobisher company and the UDC on behalf of the Ugandan government to invest in copper mining.
  • The Canadian Frobisher company provided skilled personals as well as large supply of semi-skilled labour was recruited from Kigezi region to work in Kirembe mines.
  • The presence of improved transport network based on Kasese-Kampala-Jinja railway and a tarmac road. It should be noted that the railway was extended to Kasese by 1966 to serve copper mines in Kirembe.
  • Adequate supply of food supply to copper mines and this is because the area is an agriculturally rich referred to as the food basket for Uganda.
  • Supportive government policy at the time of setting up of Kirembe copper mines. The government was looking forward to diversifying Uganda‘s economy and avoids dependency on agricultural sector.

Problems facing Kirembe copper mines

  • Limited capital and skilled labour force which forced Uganda to import capital and skilled labour and this later led to profit repatriation.
  • There is a high rate of rotting and decaying of the physical infrastructure on the site at Kirembe due to complete copper mining. Also the flooding of R. Nyamwamba recently as led to destruction of important infrastructure.
  • Price fluctuation for copper on the international market which discouraged further copper mining at Kirembe.
  • There was a problem of increasing difficulties in the mining conditions which led to increased production cost and this was because recruiting cheap labour was no longer easy.
  • There was copper ore exhaustion within the established areas of mining. This required more exploration for more copper reserves which was more costly.
  • Copper ores constituted only 1.9% pure copper and the 98.1% was waste. This became un economical to continue with copper mining activities.

     

     


     




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