By Prossy Nandudu
KAMPALA (ACP-IDN) – With the African population expected to increase by roughly 50 percent over the next 18 years to over 1.8 billion in 2035, demands for mineral resources will also climb sharply to meet the need for additional housing units, roads, energy and other urban infrastructure using development minerals, averred Dr Patrick Gomes, Secretary General of the African, Caribbean, Pacific (ACP) Group of States.
“In most ACP countries, growth rates are recorded due to the construction, mining and transport sectors. Interventions in this sector may be an effective way to help countries achieve the UN’s Sustainable Development Goals (SDGs) by 2030,” he told a high-level ministerial meeting of the Group at the ACP Secretariat early this year in Brussels.
Indeed. Mining impacts at least two of the 17 Goals: SDG8 (Employment and Economic Growth) and SDG9 (Infrastructure, Innovation, and Industrialization).
With this in view, Apollo Buregyeya – a civil engineer, concrete technologist and an entrepreneur – has tasked himself with establishing “industries on the African continent that utilise African mineral resources for the purpose of lifting the living standards of Africans”.
In particular, he is adding value to stones, rocks, concrete and special stones found in the South Western districts of Buhweju in Uganda. From these Buregyeya makes roads, pavers, tiles and special concrete and later sells it to earn a living.
“Such things are achieved when you understand the minerals that you are using. So that you are able to characterise them and not mix them,” says Buregyeya.
“Because we are not knowledgeable about development minerals which were originally considered low value minerals, we miners mix and use them in a way that is not focused so we don’t get value out of them.”
Buregyeya is one of the lucky among the many people mining neglected development minerals to have benefited from training in mining for Small and Medium Enterprises (SMEs).
The training programme, organised by the UN Development Programme (UNDP) and the Ministry of Energy with support from the European Union and UNDP, aims to create awareness of existing minerals, and how they can be handled to increase their value so that miners can earn more while conserving the environment at the same time.
The programme, which falls under the aegis of the ACP, EU and UNDP, started three years ago to build capacity for mining neglected development minerals. The €13.1 million programme is being implemented in 40 countries in Africa, the Caribbean and the Pacific. Uganda is one of the six focus countries in Africa.
Through the programme, “I am now aware of the minerals I use, where they are coming from and what damage I am causing to the environment,” says Buregyeya. “I also know that when I extract minerals I must have an environment restoration plan.”
Buregyeya explains that during the training, miners were taught how to separate semi-precious stones like quartz from concrete, proper sand mining methods, how to utilise space left when a rock is broken into small stones, pricing of minerals, and how to market them, among others.
Buregyeya, who owns Eco Concrete Ltd, a cement and concrete materials producing company that operates in East Africa, has not kept the lessons learned from the training programme to himself and has passed these on to his workers.
“The people we employ don’t have the skills so when they join our camp, we subject them to training on how to operate machines for extracting responsibly, polishing some stones and separating them, so that there is consistency in production when one person is away,” he explains.
Buregyeya also notes that such training has encouraged many young people to start up their own ventures and Eco Concrete along with other miners who took part in the training programme plan to set up a training institution that will increase the skills of others dealing in development minerals.
Before the training programme miners still had good products but did not know their value and made no effort to improve their quality, according to Vincent Kedi from the Directorate of Geological Survey and Minerals at the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development.
“Business continued as usual people, continued to do the things that they did, everyone was just mining, it was only the local government that would come in with some fees for environmental protection and at that time regulations were not necessary,” said Kedi, “but after a series of training sessions, there is need for regulation of the sector.”
He added that apart from training those in mining like Buregyeya, members of parliament were introduced to the sector through the Natural Resources Committee, which has now pledged to come up with regulations on one of the minerals, namely sand.
“We managed to create awareness by targeting members of parliament because we wanted them to appreciate that there is a sector in the industry which, when regulated, can increase the country’s GDP,” said Kedi.
He further explained that through the training, members of parliament on the Natural Resources Committee are now directing the Ministry of Energy to come up with regulations on sand mining because there has been no proper regulation of such minerals.
“The regulation of minerals has been highly focused on minerals like gold, yet these minerals also have potential. The programme has raised the profile of these minerals, and clearly we are going to use it a tool in lobbying for their regulation.”
In terms of sustainability, Kedi noted that, through their leaders who are now trainers of trainers (TOTs), miners who benefited from the training will receive grant funding to upscale their activities given that many lack capital to invest in machinery and other facilities to help produce quality products for the market. He added, however, that only innovative proposals will be considered for funding.
“We are going to roll out grants which we can give miners depending on the proposals presented. The innovation should be cutting edge. For example an innovation where someone can mine a semi-precious stone, polish it well and come up with a pretty pendant, earrings or a medical product will be given priority,” he added.
At the launch of the Baseline Assessment and Value Chain Analysis for the Development Minerals Sector report, UNDP Deputy Country Director Thomas Ole Kuyan said the loose connection of the sector to the community calls for support.
This support, he said, should be in form of business development services, access to affordable finance, access to market information, technology and equipment because the sector offers around 390,000 jobs, contributes seven percent to GDP and grosses the equivalent of more than 350 million dollars, according to 2016 estimates.
The study was commissioned by the ACP-EU Development Minerals Programme, an initiative of the African, Caribbean and Pacific (ACP) Group of States, financed by the European Union and UNDP, and implemented by the latter. [IDN-InDepthNews – 02 May 2018]
Photo: Mining impacts at least two of the 17 Goals: SDG9 (Infrastructure, Innovation, and Industrialization) and SDG8 (Employment and Economic Growth). Credit: Prossy Nandudu | IDN-INPS.
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