Gold is weighed on a scale

Ugandan Policymakers Highlight Need for Formalization of the ASGM Sector During Mine Site Visit


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In a bid to gain firsthand insights into the operations of artisanal and small-scale gold miners (ASGM), Uganda government officials, alongside representatives from various stakeholder groups, embarked on a field visit to the Kayonza Mine Site. Organized by the planetGOLD Uganda project on April 11, this initiative aimed to highlight challenges faced by miners and explore potential policy interventions to promote responsible mining practices.

Located in Central Uganda’s Kassanda District, the Kayonza Mine Site played host to this diverse group of stakeholders that included Members of Parliament, accompanied by officials from the local district, ministry of Energy representatives, National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) officials, and miners from across the country. 

Members of Parliament who sit on the natural resources committee of Parliament address miners, community members and guests at Kayonza Mine Site.
Members of Parliament who sit on the natural resources committee of Parliament address miners, community members and guests at Kayonza Mine Site.

The visit provided a platform for miners to voice their challenges while also showcasing the technological advancements they have made in their mining work. It also served as a crucial opportunity for government officials to engage directly with miners, understanding their day-to-day struggles and aspirations for sustainable mining practices.

Throughout the day’s event, discussions centered on the urgent need for artisanal miners to formalize and register their operations. The lack of formalization not only poses significant environmental and health hazards but also hampers the ability to enforce responsible mining practices and ensure miners' safety and welfare and better earning from their gold. 

Grace Nassuna, the assistant commissioner mines in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development emphasized the need for registration. “I advise all ASGMs to register during the biometric registration to be able to benefit. Please adhere to the new processing license to avoid being outside of the law. As a government, we shall ensure you mine in accordance with the legally required laws so that you can grow economically," she said.

Grace Nassuna speaks to stakeholders
Grace Nassuna, the assistant commissioner mines in the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, spoke to miners about the benefits of formalisation.

The Kitumbi-Kayonza miners largely use mercury to extract gold from the ore. Although mercury was banned in Uganda, the miners indicate that they are yet to find an alternative which works well and is affordable. 

One of the key takeaways from the visit was the recognition of the vital need for alternatives to mercury use that won’t affect miners’ incomes. Hon. Peter Okeyo, said, "As government, we must address how ASGM will access alternatives to mercury without getting them out of business. We shall ensure enabling laws and appropriate funding to support our ASGM." 

Miners descend in a pit
Government officials visited the shaft, a modernised pit, where gold ore is mined.

Anne Nakafeero, the principal environment officer NEMA, shared some of the alternatives to mercury miners can explore together with the planetGOLD project. “We have gravitational methods and borax which can also separate gold from other impurities,” she said. 

Despite ASGM contributing significantly to Uganda’s economy including providing employment to some of the country’s vulnerable communities, particularly in rural areas, miners continue to face many challenges including health risks due to mercury use, lack of financing, poor working conditions, and exploitation. 

Edward Ssenfuma, the managing director Kitumbi-Kayonza miners association said, “In a week we can have electricity for two days only which destabilizes work. Miners also can’t access finances due to the risk involved in the business.” 

The visit shed light on the potential for collaboration between government bodies, NGOs, and miners to address some of these challenges faced by artisanal gold miners, supporting efforts towards ensuring responsible mining practices and a clean gold supply chain. 

MPs walk in mine site
The delegation of government officials tour Kayonza Mine Site during their visit on April 11.

Lynn Gitu, the project manager for planetGOLD Uganda said, “We are interested in making sure all stakeholders put efforts together to make sure that ASGM are able to get their gold on the market, change their lives, build their communities, and eliminate mercury from the supply chain.”

The field visit to the Kayonza Mine Site underscored the urgent need for ASGM to register and formalise their operations. The visit also served as a catalyst for dialogue and collaboration between government officials, stakeholders, and miners, paving the way for the enforcement of policies and initiatives that promote responsible mining practices. 

Watch a video summary of the day on X.

The planetGOLD Uganda project is supported by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP). It is executed by IMPACT, in partnership with Uganda’s National Environment Management Authority (NEMA) and the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM). The project aims to reduce the use of mercury by supporting formalization of the artisanal gold mining sector and increasing access to finance. This will lead to adoption of mercury-free technologies and allow access to more responsible and traceable gold supply chains.

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