President Yoweri Museveni has asked the budding mining sector to pay more attention to minerals value addition saying only then will Uganda and the continent realise its true worth.
While closing the two-day Mineral Wealth Conference 2013 at the Kampala Sheraton Hotel, Museveni cited the many instances of countries that have been involved in mining but remained in abject poverty.
"These minerals have value in the places they are being taken, is it profitable to refine gold or is it not necessary? I thought this conference would address this," said Museveni to a fully packed audience describing Africa's experience with minerals as largely "minerals without development."
He asked that serious thought be given to integrating mining into the national economy citing the example of the lack of an integrated steel industry.
"We don't want a situation where people make airstrips, take out the minerals and that is it."
"Minerals have been in Africa for a long time but many of these countries are also very poor except Ghana which is coming up," said Museveni.
Museveni' s thoughts resonated with Bridgette Radebe, South African mining guru, who spoke a day earlier at the conference opening.
She urged African leaders to be resolute and ensure that the minerals in their territories benefit their countries.
"We should not be apologetic in making sure that our minerals are used for the benefit of our country, which is what we did in South Africa.
There is no way we can be liberated unless we have economic ownership of what belongs to the people," said Radebe.
Museveni cited the Kilembe mines in western Uganda, which has been taken over by Chinese, saying the Government has asked that the copper is refined here before being exported.
This was during the conference organised by the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum (UCMP).
Museveni also agreed to a retreat with the industry to try to iron out what the minerals prospectors and investors consider are sticking issues standing in the way of progress.
"It should be a serious retreat. When we refine gold here, is it viable, how much value do you add?" said Museveni.
The sticking points include VAT and withholding tax especially levied on Foreign Service providers. The other is the unresolved issue on how land owners can be compensated or how disputes can be resolved. These, analysts say, must be resolved before mining takes place.
"Those (VAT and withholding tax) are not reasonable. There is no point in taxing someone who is earning no income, I am more interested in job creation, production of goods and then we would get taxes indirectly," said Museveni.