Uganda has a favourable geological environment that hosts more than 27 commercially exploitable mineral resources.
The mining sector has great potential of contributing to economic development and poverty alleviation through mineral exports, local consumption, manufacturing, employment generation and diversification of the economy.
I know that Bunyoro harbours vast wealth of minerals and specifically development minerals like sand, clay, limestone, marble and stone aggregate.
Reports are clear that these resources contribute to Uganda’s construction sector to grow at an average of 6% per annum.
The on-going oil industry related activities like road construction, airport and implementation of resettlement action plans for various projects like Kingfisher, Tilenga and EACOP have increased the demand for the development minerals but it has not created any visible meaning to the local communities so far.
This is hinged on inadequate legal, institutional and policy framework, human resource constraints, unregulated artisanal miners and small scale mining activities and the inability to access international markets because of restrictive mineral traceability requirement but also information gap among the developers and regulators.
Consequently, there has been destruction of the environment by artisanal miners since they use traditional tools in the mining sites.
The companies involved in rock mining, too, have been disastrous to the environment for example in Kihooko village, Kikuube District, where the rock quarry site has never been restored are required by the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA).
The site has for years become a breeding place for mosquitoes and other harmful aquatic and terrestrial life threatening human health and life.
I am also aware that the miners work beyond the recommended hours besides poor working conditions like little pay without even caring about their health and safety from intense heat, excessive noise and air pollutants.
I believe that limited government monitoring and evaluation is responsible for this danger and exploitation.
The petroleum sector has strongly affected the development minerals but surprisingly the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has strengthened the oil and gas development structures, neglecting the sister source of inputs (development minerals) that is likely to exist further after the extinction of oil and gas deposits in the Albertine Graben.
It is on this background that I implore the stakeholders to take urgent action to strengthen legal, policy and institutional framework regarding the management of the development minerals in Uganda.
I cannot hesitate to call upon our Members of Parliament and the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development to pick interest in development minerals in the best interest of sustainable mineral development in our dear country.
If we delay, we risk sliding into the negative side of our resources instead of benefiting from this blessing.
The author, Priscilla Tusiime, is a Coordinator Development Minerals at Kitara Civil Society Organization Network (KCSON)