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Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining, Uganda

In Uganda, almost all artisanal gold is mined and exported illegally. Unregulated gold mining has been leading conflicts in the mining sector, smuggling of gold, child labour, human rights abuses, environmental and human health concerns


In Uganda, almost all artisanal gold is mined and exported illegally. Unregulated gold mining has been leading conflicts in the mining sector, competing in land uses, smuggling of gold, child labour, human rights abuses, environmental and human health concerns and tax revenue losses (1). Although the government passed the Mining Policy in 2001, the Mining Act in 2003 and Mining regulations in 2004, the current mineral policies and legislation do not provide sufficient opportunities for the formalization of artisanal gold mining. Instead artisanal mining sites have informal structures that regulate the mining, the lease of lands and settlements (4) (6) (9).  In the formalized sector, an increasing number of big multinational businesses are coming in Uganda during the past few years, but have been met with resistance due to fears from locals that large mining operations would affect their current mining efforts and livelihood. In fact, where the companies have obtained the license of mining (Rupa, Moroto, Karamoja, Kitumbi), it has been reported they consistently failed to secure free, prior, and informed consent from the local communities before they started operations on communal lands. The central and local governments have also failed to insist that the companies adhere to this established international standard. Companies arriving to carry out exploration have promised communities benefits to mitigate the loss of land use and livelihood and other impact, including schools, hospitals, boreholes, jobs, scholarships, and money in exchange for their cooperation. But even as exploration or mining has continued, the communities have not seen the promised benefits. Moreover, their condition of exploitation and lack of specialized technology for mining have not changed (7) (1) (5).

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Basic Data
Name of conflict:Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining, Uganda
Location of conflict:Exploitation of gold in the country has been concentrated in a few areas such as Kigezi, Mubende, Karamoja in northeastern Uganda, Buhweju and Ibanda in the West, Namayingo and Busia in eastern Uganda, Kitumbi in Central Uganda. (6).
Accuracy of locationLOW (Country level)
Source of Conflict
Type of conflict. 1st level:Mineral Ores and Building Materials Extraction
Type of conflict. 2nd level:Mineral ore exploration
Specific commodities:Gold
Project Details and Actors
Project details

Mining gold sector in Uganda, according official statistics, in 2016 contributed only 0.5 per cent to Gross Domestic Product (2) and for the last 15 years Uganda has never produced more than 30kg of gold annually (9). However, a study on artisanal and small-scale mining commissioned by the ministry of Energy revealed that Uganda had actually produced 1,200kg of gold in 2008 alone. Therefore, considering that in 2009 were around 28,000 artisanal gold miners and considering that Uganda has experienced several gold rushes since then (including Mubende District with up to 10,000 artisanal gold miners, the Rupa Gold Mine and Karamoja with 15,000 to 80,000), recently investigations estimate that the informal sector contributes about 3.5 per cent of GDP and there are about between 50,000 to 200,000 unlicensed artisanal gold miners around the country collecting some 2.8 tonnes of gold every year (2) (4) (5).

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Type of populationSemi-urban
Affected Population:50,000-200,000
Start of the conflict:01/01/2007
Company names or state enterprises:AUC Mining Uganda Ltd from Uganda
Vangold Resources Ltd from Canada
Blaze Metal Resources Limited from Ghana
Environmental justice organizations (and other supporters) and their websites, if available:Stop Child Labour
Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations (SOMO)
Global Rights Alert
Conflict & Mobilization
IntensityLOW (some local organising)
Reaction stagePREVENTIVE resistance (precautionary phase)
Groups mobilizing:Artisanal miners
International ejos
Religious groups
Forms of mobilization:Involvement of national and international NGOs
Appeals/recourse to economic valuation of the environment
Boycotts of companies-products
Environmental ImpactsVisible: Air pollution, Noise pollution, Waste overflow, Surface water pollution / Decreasing water (physico-chemical, biological) quality, Groundwater pollution or depletion
Potential: Global warming, Loss of landscape/aesthetic degradation, Soil erosion, Deforestation and loss of vegetation cover
Health ImpactsVisible: Accidents, Infectious diseases, Deaths
Potential: Mental problems including stress, depression and suicide, Violence related health impacts (homicides, rape, etc..), Health problems related to alcoholism, prostitution, Occupational disease and accidents
Socio-economical ImpactsVisible: Lack of work security, labour absenteeism, firings, unemployment, Violations of human rights, Land dispossession, Other socio-economic impacts
Potential: Increase in Corruption/Co-optation of different actors, Displacement, Increase in violence and crime, Loss of livelihood, Social problems (alcoholism, prostitution, etc..)
Other socio-economic impactsForced child labour
Project StatusIn operation
Conflict outcome / response:Corruption
Under negotiation
Development of alternatives:Recommendation for downstream companies in the gold supply chain. Companies in the gold supply chain, such as refineries, electronics companies, jewellery and banks, should take steps to ban mercury in (artisanal) mining. Move beyond the area of conflict minerals in your due diligence with regard to the gold used in your products; do not focus solely on gold sourced from the DRC and neighbouring countries but extend your policies to all countries producing (artisanal) gold. Companies must map – if possible, jointly – their entire gold supply chains including the artisanal gold supply, and share this information publicly. Companies have to know which countries, specific regions and suppliers they source gold from, carry out a risk assessment of all the countries and regions involved, and identify in which supply chains and at what specific points the company can use its influence to achieve a positive impact. The risks identified have to be mitigated through initiatives taken by companies together with other stakeholders. It is crucial to involve local organisations and initiatives in both risk assessment and remediation efforts. ‡ An engagement with actors within the supply chain, as well as other local actors, to work towards progressive improvement in the artisanal and small scale mining – including formalization and improving working conditions for adult workers -, is to be preferred over avoidance of artisanal mining. ‡ Work with and/or support local initiatives to get children from gold mine areas to school and to make sure that all children receive full-time quality education. Recommendations for CSO’s ‡ Initiatives on eliminating child labour in artisanal mining should be done in cooperation with other efforts on combatting child labour and improving the educational infrastructure and quality - either by the government and/or local or national NGOs, community based organizations and trade unions ‡ Social and communities empowerment programs are further encouraged in mining communities targeting all children including underprivileged children (i.e. orphans, children from poor families etc.) in these communities. The programs should focus on ensuring these children remain in school and that these children receive quality education. To the Ugandan Government ‡ Work with local stakeholders (local government, companies, mining cooperatives, mine owners, NGOs, unions, local child rights groups, etc.) to raise awareness about child labour, and set up programmes to prevent and remedy both this and other labour rights violations found in mining sites. ‡ Work with pan-African and/or regional African organizations (e.g. ECOWAS) to develop programmes that tackle child labour and improve working conditions for adult workers in goldproducing communities. Wherever possible, channel these efforts into the context of regularising illegal mining. ‡ Ensure an effective control of mines operating within the bounds of legality, and take action to tackle both money-laundering and the smuggling of gold to other countries. ‡ Take measures to abolish the use of mercury in gold mining ‡ Improve the education infrastructure and make sure that all children in mining areas receive full-time quality education without charging fees or paying other costs. ‡ Adopt legal provisions on small scale and artisanal mines, including attention to working conditions and child labour, that effectively prevent child labour in gold mines under 18 and provides decent working conditions for adults. ‡ Investigate the number and working conditions of children participating in mining and activities related to mining, and share these with the public, policy makers and other stakeholders. Involve all stakeholders in interventions on child labour in artisanal gold mining (4) (7)
Do you consider this an environmental justice success? Was environmental justice served?:No
Sources & Materials
References to published books, academic articles, movies or published documentaries

(3)Annie Kelly, Silence far from golden for child labourers in the mines of Uganda, The Guardian, 20 May 2016
[click to view]

(2) Mark Keith Muhumuza, Mubende illegal gold miners apply for location licence, Daily Monitor, APRIL 1 2016
[click to view]

(1) Francis Mugerwa, Uganda: Mubende Gold Miners Cash in Amidst Destruction, The Monitor, 20 FEBRUARY 2017
[click to view]

(4) Irene Schipper & Esther de Haan (SOMO) and Stephen Turyahikayo (CRSS), No Golden Future. Use of child labour in gold mining in Uganda, Stichting Onderzoek Multinationale Ondernemingen Centre for Research on Multinational Corporations, Amsterdam, April 2016
[click to view]

(6) Ronald Musoke, Uganda: Inside Mubende's Golden Villages, The Indipendent, 1 NOVEMBER 2016
[click to view]

(7) Jessica Evans,Uganda: Rights at Risk in New Mining Region, Urgent Need to Protect Indigenous Land Rights in Karamoja, Human Rights Watch, FEBRUARY 3, 2014
[click to view]

(9) Alon Mwesigwa, Uganda: Billions Lost in Secret Gold Trade, The Observer, 2 SEPTEMBER 2015
[click to view]

(5) raregoldnuggets, Mining for Gold and Metals in Uganda, november 11 2015
[click to view]

(8) John Emerson, "How Can We Survive Here?" The Impact of Mining on Human Rights in Karamoja, Uganda, FEBRUARY 3, 2014, Human Rights Watch
[click to view]

Winfred Ngabiirwe, Robert B Tumwesigye, Hassan B. Muloopa, Human Rights Status in the Gold Supply Chain of Uganda: A Case for Artisanal Small-Scale Mining in Karamoja Region, Global Rights Alert, Dec 2012
[click to view]

Links to general newspaper articles, blogs or other websites

Kamalenge Gold Mining Project, Uganda Invest
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Contributor:Carla Petricca
Last update21/03/2017
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