Uganda’s vision 2040 is a reflection of the country’s aspirations of where it needs to be or look like in 30 years. It provides development paths and strategies to operationalize the country’s vision statement of “Transformed Ugandan Society from a peasant to a Modern and prosperous country within 30years”. This vision is conceptualized around strengthening the fundamentals of the national economy to harness the opportunities around the country. Uganda identified key opportunities which include oil and gas, tourism, minerals, ICT businesses, abundant labour force, geographical location and trade, water resources, industrialization and agriculture among others.
Despite vision 2040 clearly highlighting minerals as one of the key drivers to sustainable development of the country, little or no attention has been put on minerals and development of minerals. Development Minerals are minerals that are mined, processed and manufactured or used domestically in industries. However much these minerals are widely used, they are not known or recognized as major minerals. These minerals include; salt, sand, clay, semi-precious stones, murram and dimension stones among others.
Development Minerals present viable opportunities to the people of Uganda. However, their exploitation also presents serious dangers to the local people, nature and environment if not well harnessed. These can include occupational health and safety risks during the process of exploitation of these Development Minerals. The manner in which Development Minerals are exploited is less regulated.
It is predominantly by informal artisanal miners and employ rudimentary technologies, actors are either unskilled or semi- skilled. In most case, there is use children and vulnerable women as source of cheap labour and this leads to exploitation other than transformation of people.
Development Minerals have become of focus to Bunyoro given the numerous ongoing and future developments as a result of oil and gas and fast urbanization. Road construction in the Albertine region demands murram, clay, bricks, sand especially from the lake, stone gravel all of which form the Development Minerals notion.
Other development infrastructure such as the East African Crude Oil pipeline (EACOP), the Hoima International Airport, the Refinery, industrial parks among others all call for Development Minerals as key supplies to their development. What we need to ask ourselves is how much of these will be needed? Where can they be got from? And as part of the local content policy, we need to find out if these can be supplied locally to enhance participation in the development process.
However, despite this ever increasing demand, there is no clear and well framed actions to exploit, use and protect, demand for restoration, preservation and meaningful benefits from these Development Minerals by the population especially the local people. The process of development and utilization of Development Minerals has numerous challenges including death, environmental challenges like unrestored quarry sites where water can collect thus breeding places for mosquitoes hence malaria. They also have loss of soil structure and nutrients which affects local agriculture and other social economic activities. In some areas of the region, artisanal mining has encouraged school dropout and hence encouraging child labour. This sector has not been put on a lot of emphasis which has left children victims of circumstances. Which generation shall we have in 30 years to come? The need to make personal income to facilitate their needs lead to overexploitation them. This is due to the fact that Development Minerals have not been regulated and no clear legal framework governing them.
All Development Minerals have other associated evils such as dust exposure, heat stress, flying rock fragments, and poor sanitation and hygiene. As Ugandans and people in Bunyoro, we therefore need to give focus on these minerals and other development minerals just like oil and gas development. By doing so, we can focus on the following;-
We need to ensure that there is occupational health and safety measures during the process of exploitation of Development Minerals, monitor and regulate all Development Minerals by both Central and Local Government with critical attention to local mines.
a.Ensure that there is sustainable and environmentally friendly Utilisation approaches by developers and communities engaged in Development Minerals.
b. Creating awareness of the relationship between Development Minerals, development and environment.
c. Isolate Development Minerals from the wider environmental, oil and gas and mineral conversation in order to give it more meaning and sustainable utilization advocacy.
d. Create awareness programs on how to manage Development Mineral resources without affecting the social behaviours plus the enviroment negatively.
The writers are social workers with Bunyoro Albertine Petroleum Network on Environmental Conservation (BAPENECO), a Bunyoro Based CSO Network working on issues of Land, Petroleum Governance, Environment and Livelihoods.
Disclaimer: We as Bunyoro Sqoop we welcome any opinion by any one if it’s of a constructive use to the Development of Bunyoro and Uganda at large. All the expressions and opinions in this write-up are not of Bunyoro Sqoop but for the author of the article.