[Wait wait. How is that oil refinery coming along? Just wondering!]
Uganda will build a gold refinery to stop exporting unpurified gold, President Yoweri Museveni announced while delivering the State of the Nation Address at Serena Conference Centre in Kampala Tuesday.
He said minerals, like agriculture, produce raw-materials for industry (for factories).
“We are, accordingly, moving on that front. The Chinese company in Sukuru hills, near Tororo, is working on producing phosphate fertilizers, sulphuric acid and steel.”
He said the facility, once fully developed, will generate annual income of the magnitude of US$306 million and create 1,800 jobs.
Similar operations will be done at Kilembe, Butogota in Kanungu, Muko in Kabale, Namekhera in Bugisu.
“We must build a gold refinery in the region. The only gold refineries are, apparently, in Dubai and in South Africa.”
He said Uganda, Tanzania, Congo, South Sudan export unpurified gold for which they get US$970 per ounce.
Yet an ounce of purified pure gold, goes for US$ 1,212 per ounce.
“This is not correct. Therefore, the artisanal mining needs to be monitored and guided so that they do not become part of the haemorrhage. As long as you are only collecting the bukunkumukira (fragments, particles) of gold, in the form of alluvial gold, the State should ignore you.”
He noted that the artisanal miners should be regulated and what they are harvesting should be known and recorded.
“At the same time, three things should be happening. One, exploration by licensed people should continue. Nobody should stop properly equipped scientific exploration to continue.”
He also suggested that the Minerals Department should have a fully-equipped laboratory that should conclusively analyse the samples so as to determine the exact content of the minerals.
Once the rock of the gold or diamonds or whatever from which the bukunkumukira are coming from is located, capable large scale investors should come in so that they directly mine and process as well as buying from the regulated and licensed artisanal miners.
The two can work together but in an organized and coordinated way, the president observed.
“Therefore, the four must be coordinated and legalized: artisanal mining, exploration, industrial mining and processing as well as refining.”
According to him, unregulated and illegal artisanal mining will be part of the haemorrhage and will block great opportunities: industrial mining, processing and refining which bring in much more money, transfer of technology and create more jobs.
What is true of gold and diamonds is also true of other minerals e.g. coltan (columbite tantalite), tin, wolfram etc.
“All this should be discussed with our artisanal miners like the ones I saw at Kamusenene in Bukuya. I do not want high-handed actions by corrupt and selfish officials roughing up our people.”
The president said all Ugandans are intelligent and they are able to tell what is good and what is bad when you show it to them clearly and patiently.
“Above, I have only talked about gold (alluvial or from the hard rock). I have not talked about jewellery. Our gold must be converted into jewellery so that we get more money from our gold, create more businesses from that gold and create more jobs.“
The artisanal miners will therefore, get organised so that we can assist them to make jewellery from gold.
“However, you cannot make, jewellery unless you purify the gold which takes us back to the issue of the Gold Refinery.”