Government has approved a new mining policy, placing Uganda’s sand, murrum, granites and stones under the mineral sector, ending centuries of unregulated mining of the said products.
In a decision that is likely to have huge impact on the construction industry, the cabinet decided that for one to mine sand and other associated products, a license has to be issued by the line minister and that should such entity violate the terms in the license, punitive measures will be instituted against such a person or entity.
“The policy will widen the scope of the definition of minerals to include sand, granite/stones and murrum among others. It will also provide for the minister as the person responsible for issuing mining license and provide for penalties to those involved in illegal mining,” Mr Frank Tumwebaze, the cabinet spokesman said during a press briefing at Uganda Media Centre yesterday.
The cabinet decision is also likely to pave way for the onset of sand mining on Lake Victoria, which the National Environment Management and other environmentalists had opposed.
When put to the Executive Director of NEMA, Dr Tom Okurut on what this means to its effort in conserving the environment and trying to prevent destruction of wetlands, he said though he had no idea about what the policy says, there is no problem with the new policy.
“I have not known about that but its ok, its fine that’s government. Nothing wrong,” he said before hurriedly hanging up.
His response seemed guarded, contrary to his earlier stand when he told off different groups, particularly the Chinese investors who were pushing for sand mining in the lake.
NEMA had refused to issue mining license to the Mango Group to mine sand in Lake Victoria on grounds that it would destroy the breeding grounds for the fish and also affect the lake life.
Since its launch months ago, the dredger that the group had constructed for both dredging the lake and sand mining has been grounded at Bugiri Beach.
During the weekly cabinet resolutions briefing at the media centre yesterday, Mr Tumwebaze said the new policy will finally regulate the sand mining in the country.
He said the policy will crack a whip at those who have been depleting the environment and will now make it difficult to walk scot-free after destroying the environment.
“You know people always think sand if a free good, but it’s now becoming scarce, it’s a mineral and we are now trying to put it in the definition such that it can be sparingly used as we conserve the environment. Illegal mining is not only detrimental to the utilization and exploitation of our minerals, but it is also detrimental to our environment because if people are doing illegal mining, they are causing havoc to all our environment,” he noted.
Mr Tumwebaze said previously, there was no policy on sand mining so people had been engaging in it at leisure. When asked whether those who have been engaging in depletion of the wetlands through sand mining, will be punished, he said the law cannot be applied retrospectively.
He however such people may face penalties if they contravened the existing laws and policies at the time, like the wetlands policy and other related laws.
He also said apart from the environmental concerns, the value of sand, stones and granites have gone up and therefore there is need to earn maximum revenue from the minerals. He said through controlled sand mining, the country will be able to realize revenue.
“It’s also the value of these minerals. They are valuable and licensing them can generate a lot of money. How do you say the limestone used for making cement is a mineral and say sand is not a mineral? Actually sand has become more valuable that cement because you can build house with sand and without cement,” he said.
Other cabinet approvals.
The cabinet also approved the appointment of the national buildings review board members under the ministry of works. The 15 member board among other things will; monitor building developments, ensure designs and construction of building and utilities to which the public is to have access and cater for the persons with disabilities. It will also oversee, inspect and monitor the operations of the building committees.
Mr Tumwebaze said currently there are many building and physical planning committees in the districts and urban centres and that all these will now come under the new board.
“You know there are very many building and physical planning committees under local governments, KCCA has its own, districts have their own, so this sets standards for all those. It is to prepare and submit to the minister, reports relating to any matter of building developments,” he said.
According to him, the board will hear and determine appeals from persons dissatisfied with decisions of a building committee. They will determine the fees to be charged by the urban and district building committees for approval of plans, issue building permits and finally to perform any other function conferred to it by the law.
“So when you hear a building has collapsed, plans were not adequate, thw board will be responsible for answering the state of construction industry in the country,” he narrated.
The members of the board include; Mr Emmanuel Male, Mr James Erochu Enou, Ms Grace Mary Mugasa, Mr Milton Ocen Fred, Mr Jonathan Tugume, Ms Harriet Kaahwa Mary Kugonza, Ms Eva Katushabe, Ms Margaret Adata, Dr. Kackson Amone, Architect Enoch Kibbamu, Mr Apollo Mukasa, Mr Charles Kyamanywa, Ms Tabitha Kakuze, Ms Betty Nakamya and Mr Edward Ssimbe.