The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development has revealed that they have identified new gold targets across the country.
Addressing journalists at the Uganda Media Centre in Kampala, Energy minister Ruth Nankabirwa revealed that more gold deposits have been identified in parts of Buhweju, Mubende, Namayingo, Karamoja, and Zombo districts.
She added that in December 2023, Wagagai Mining Limited, a large-scale gold project with about 30 million tonnes of gold ore in a greenstone belt in Busia district will be commissioned.
Nankabirwa has encouraged those opting to invest in the sector to acquire mining licences in line with the new Mining and Mineral Act 2020 via their online portal. The minister has however vowed to cancel non-performing mining licences.
In June, 2022, Ugandan officials announced that approximately 31 million metric tonnes of gold ore had been discovered in the country. This could result in as much as 320,158 metric tonnes of refined gold, worth an estimated US$12 trillion. The discovery has the potential to instigate a surge in investment in the sector in the region. The only firm currently licensed to mine the new deposits is the Chinese mining firm Wagagai, which will likely pave the way for increased Chinese engagement in the sector.
The largest deposits were found in the Karamoja area of the Northern region; however, gold reserves were also discovered in the country’s eastern, central, and western regions. The discovery follows a two-year countrywide geophysical and geochemical survey.
If accurate, this discovery would make Uganda the most gold-rich state on earth. For context, according to the United States (US) Geological Survey (USGS), only 244,000 tonnes of gold in total have been discovered globally, and only an estimated 187,000 metric tonnes have been mined and refined in human history. In its 2022 Mineral Commodity Summary, the USGS estimated that global untapped gold reserves were only around 54,000 metric tonnes.
Uganda’s gold sector has been criticised for its lack of sufficient oversight and regulation. In particular, the country has been used as a hub by gold traffickers in the region who smuggle gold from illicit and militant-controlled mines in the eastern Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). This has resulted in the US Treasury sanctioning Uganda’s largest privately-owned gold refinery, African Gold Refinery (AGR), in March of this year.
In recent years, Uganda has attempted to address the regulatory weakness in its resource sector. In 2020, the country joined the Extractive Industries Transparency Initiative (EITI), and in 2021 it passed its new Mining and Minerals Bill.
The new law replaces the 2003 act and enables a more competitive licensing procedure for brownfield projects and strengthens the first-come-first-serve approach to greenfield projects.
The law also calls for the creation of a state-owned mining company, which will hold the state’s stake in all new mining projects. Under the law, this company will be a 15% stakeholder in all mining projects.