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Stakeholders learn about Uganda’s new laws for artisanal mining sector

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Uganda's mining and minerals sector—including artisanal gold mining—is a critical driver of economic growth for the country. A government 2019 report estimates that 7,081 kg of gold in Uganda is artisanally mined per year, which accounts for more than 90 percent of all the country’s gold production.

In 2022, Uganda passed the new Mining and Minerals Law, which for the first time, integrated regulations governing artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM). The new law included provisions to ensure responsible mining practices, including health and safety, gender equality, as well as environmental protection.

To deepen stakeholders' understanding of these new legal requirements and regulations, Uganda’s Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development held a workshop in August 2023 bringing supply chain actors, government agencies, enforcement agencies, as well as civil society together in Kampala.

Raising Awareness on Efforts to Tackle Mercury

The workshop provided an opportunity to raise awareness around Uganda’s work to tackle mercury in its artisanal gold supply chain as part of the planetGOLD Uganda project.

The project had an opportunity to present about the project, giving participants a detailed understanding of its relevance in Uganda, while emphasising its four key components especially around the adoption of mercury-free mining tools. Participants discussed critical and cross-cutting issues such as gender equality and the involvement of women in artisanal gold mining, occupational safety and health, environmental protection, and human rights such as child labour.

Participants left with a greater understanding of mining regulations such as the Mining and Minerals Act 2022 which replaced the Mining Act 2003, as well as the Mining and Minerals (Licensing) Regulation 2023 which operationalizes the new law and aligns with the ICGLR Regional Certification Mechanism.

Government Working with planetGOLD

While addressing participants in his opening remarks, Hon. Peter Lokeris, the Minister of State for Mineral Development, echoed the dangers of mercury in mining and indicated that government is working together with planetGOLD to reduce the use of mercury by supporting formalization of the artisanal gold mining sector. “You get the gold at the expense of poisoning yourself. Why don’t we save everybody including the miners by introducing other substances that are effective and can also help get the gold?” Hon. Lokeris said.

Peter Lokeris speaks to audience
Hon. Peter Lokeris, the Minister of State for Mineral Development, addresses participants at the August 2023 workshop

Mercury is the world’s largest source of anthropogenic emissions of mercury pollution. According to Uganda’s National Action Plan for Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining, Uganda’s artisanal gold mining sector releases a total of 18,495 kg of mercury per year—accounting for more than half of the country’s total emissions.

Mercury contaminates the soil, water, air, and the equipment that is used. It is highly toxic to miners and others who come in direct contact with it—particularly when vaporized or among children and pregnant women. Mercury emitted to the air can also circulate around the world and contaminate water, fish, and wildlife far from the mine from which it was released.

Mercury is widely used during extraction of gold, with miners largely unaware of the health and safety risks. In Uganda, it’s estimated that 73 percent of artisanal gold is mined with mercury. Despite its wide use, use of mercury in mining activities is prohibited under the Mining and Minerals (Licensing) Regulation 2023 (Section 255).  

The planetGOLD Uganda project is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). In Uganda, IMPACT is the executing agency, in partnership with Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the country’s Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM). The project will work together with local communities to reduce the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining—the world’s largest source of anthropogenic emissions of mercury pollution— while improving the health and lives of local mining communities. The Ugandan project is part of a global program similarly implemented in 23 countries. 

 

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