Members of Parliament want government to establish an independent body - Minerals Authority to regulate the mining sector. The MPs argue that it will be able to check the immense discretionary powers the Mining Act, 2003 vest in the Commissioner [now director] at the Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM).
Hon. Samson Lokeris, Dodoth East MP, says just as government established an independent Petroleum Authority of Uganda (PAU) to regulate the petroleum sector, the same should be done for the mining sector.
"We should establish something like the mineral authority it can regulate and provide oversight supervision," Mr Lokeris said and further explained,
"I think there is need to reduce the powers of the Commissioner. If we can regulate that, it will be very important. We need the involvement of the players including communities and local governments," he said.
Hon Robert Ntende, Bunya South MP, in Mayuge district also backed Mr Lokeris on the establishment of a Minerals Authority. "We need to make sure that the powers vested in the commissioner are trimmed and shared in other institutions - the Minerals Authority," Ntende said.
The Commissioner is currently allowed to make a number of critical decisions, particularly related to the granting, renewing and revoking of rights without consulting anybody or committee. This means that the Commissioner has direct and unfettered discretionary control over the sector. This discretion must be checked by introducing an independent oversight body such as a "Minerals Authority" tasked with reviewing bids, approving applications and recommending
The MPs made the recommendations during a Mining Legislation Review meeting by ActionAid Uganda, between MPs on the Natural Resources Committee of Parliament and Civil Society Organizations in Kampala on Thursday 18, May, 2017. The meeting aimed at sensitizing MPs to be able to shape the forthcoming amendment of the Mining Act, 2003 and Mining Policy 2001.
Mr Bashir Twesigye, the executive director, Civic Response on Environment and Development (CRED) said many jurisdictions are moving away from concentrating powers in one person or body. He gave the example of Zambia, where government established Mining Licensing Committee to check on the abuse of powers and provide additional scrutiny and Ghana, where a Minerals Commission, was established to that handles licensing and other oversight functions of the mining sector.
The CSOs recommend that the Minerals Authority should be charged with review and approval of applications for license and forward them to the Minister for licensing based on a prescribed procedure for the evaluation of bid information.
The MPs also backed a proposal from civil society organizations for the establishment of the Minerals Fund and a Minerals Investment Reserve in Bank of Uganda to hold all revenues generated from the mining sector. "There is a lot of money from the minerals but we don't know where it goes. Who monitors whether royalties have been paid or not," Lokeris wondered.
Mr Isaac Kabongo, Executive Director, Ecological Christian Organization implored government to also consider regulating low value minerals in the forthcoming amendments.
"Uganda's policies and laws tend to focus mainly on high value minerals and silent on neglected minerals [law value minerals]. Minerals like sand, murrum, clay are always neglected," he said. However, Uganda's Constitution excludes sand, clay, stones normally used for building from minerals save if exploited for commercial purposes.
"Without looking for revenues from all sectors, it will always be a challenge to meet our budget. We need to be smart and make sure that every fee is collected. Do the companies pay the taxes they are supposed to pay?" Mr Kabongo said.
Kabongo says in the forthcoming amendments to the Mining Act 2003, there should be a provision for mining companies to first secure a social license to operate from the communities.
"Sometimes, these companies come with their licenses from Entebbe, without any courtesy to introduce themselves to district, sub county or community leaders, go with their equipments and begin mining which is causing a lot of conflict with the local people," he said. He said in some areas like Karamoja, host communities are being compelled to live on marginal lands and they are left with no option by to become landless.
CSOs also want government to regulate and formalize artisanal and small scale miners and secure their livelihoods and also the establishment of a quasi-judicial body - tribunal to handle disputes in the mining sector. "We think dispute should be handled by an independent tribunal, which should be established by the amended Act," Mr Bashir Twesigye said.