President Yoweri Museveni has returned the Mining and Minerals Bill, 2021 to parliament for reconsideration.

The bill which seeks to improve mining and mineral administration and business processes, and promote value addition to minerals was passed by Parliament on February 17 and sent to the President for assent. But today, the Speaker of Parliament Anita Among informed Parliament that the President had returned the Bill for reconsideration.

In a letter dated June 18, 2022, Museveni advised parliament to delete clause 8 on the definition of large-scale mining, because it defines large-scale mining to mean, international mining of minerals in a mechanized operation involving excavation of a large surface pit or underground openings. The definition also limits large-scale mining to operations with a production value exceeding 1 million tonnes.

He says that if the current definition is maintained, it has an effect on excluding projects like Kilembe Mines, Makuutu Rare Earths, Rubanda and Mukono Iron Ore which are complex and capital intensive but may not meet the annual production exceeding 1 million tonnes.

Museveni also advised that clause 33 on the establishment of a tribunal to deal with appeals against the decision of the Minister should be substituted with an appeal being made to the High Court within 30-days of receipt of the decision. He says that the establishment of a tribunal contradicts the ongoing process of rationalization and merging of agencies.

The President states that the High Court has unlimited jurisdiction in all matters and has strengthened to improve delivery of justice. He emphasizes that the High Court is empowered to handle grievances under the Bill.

Among directed the Environment and Natural Resources Committee of Parliament to handle the named clauses expeditiously.

However, Wilfred Niwagaba, the Ndorwa East MP and Shadow Attorney General raised concern that he had received information that the committee on Natural Resources has already processed the issues raised by the President even before the formal reference by the Speaker.

He said that it would be important for the committee to interface with technocrats from the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources considering that the issues raised by the President are technical.

The Bill establishes the Uganda National Mining Company which is to manage the government’s commercial holding and participating interests in mineral agreements. It mandates the Company to hold 15 per cent free equity in all large and medium mining ventures and also have the right to pay up to 20 per cent extra shares in the mining ventures at the commercial rate.

The Bill provides that local governments shall receive reports and plans of the companies operating in their jurisdiction every six months. This is aimed at curing the defect where the non-involvement of local governments in mining operations has made it difficult for districts, sub-counties and landowners to assess the expected royalties from within their boundaries.

The Bill requires applicants for exploration licences to provide a statement with proposals in regard to employment and training of Ugandans, a training plan to that effect and a budget while applying for the license.

It is envisioned that the training should result in a succession plan for minimizing dependence on expatriates in favour of skills developed through this training, among others.

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