Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | The Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources is making another attempt to regulate sand mining through a Bill that is yet to be tabled in Parliament.
The draft bill comes hardly a year after Parliament did not nclude the regulation of sand as part of the Mining and Mineral Act 2022.
The Commissioner in Charge of Mining, Agnes Alaba says the Building Substance Bill if enacted into law will regulate sand and other mineral materials used in the construction industry.
Sand and some substances used in the construction industry were not defined as minerals by the 1995 constitution.
Sections of MPs had protested the suggestion by the ministry to regulate sand and other materials saying it would affect the construction industry.
The Mining and Mineral Policy 2018 said the regulation of Building (Development) Minerals: building minerals such as sand, clay, murram, and stone were largely unregulated under the Mining Policy of Uganda 2001, due to a gap in the legal and regulatory framework.
The policy suggested the need to regulate the commercial exploitation of substances such as sand, stone, clay, and murram, excluded from the definition of the word “mineral” in Article 244(5) of the Constitution.
According to the policy, resources such as sand, clay, and rock mining have become significant in the face of economic growth. Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in the sub-sector had increased from US$5 million in 2003 to over US$ 800 million in 2017.
While it has been scientifically proven that keeping sand in the rivers is the best adaptation to climate change, sand mining in Uganda’s rivers and Lakes remains widespread and not properly regulated.
Some of the key sand mining areas in the central part of the country include Lwera, Katosi in Mukono district, Ggaba Busaabala, Portbell, Garuga, Nkumba, Heritage, Entebbe and Lwemwedde.
In 2016, Parliament’s Natural Resources Committee investigated the rampant sand mining, especially around Lwera along the Masaka-Mbarara highway.
The committee found over 40 sand exporters. It discovered that sand was mainly being exposed to Tanzania, France, Canada, Great Britain, Netherlands, and Australia among others.
Over 63,000 kilograms of sand were reportedly exported between 2012 and 2016. The MPS found that the Uganda Revenue Authority had collected over 177 billion shillings in the form of environmental levies.
In January this year, the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP) said sand is the foundation of human construction and a fundamental ingredient in concrete, asphalt, glass, and other building materials. It found that sand extraction remained ungoverned yet it was driving erosion, flooding, and the salination of aquifers.
A 2022 report from UNEP, titled Sand and Sustainability: 10 Strategic Recommendations to Avert a Crisis, found that sand extraction is rising about 6 percent annually, a rate it called unsustainable.
Sand mining — mostly for use in the construction industry — is big business, with 50 billion tons used globally each year, the United Nations Environment Programme said in a report last year. It warned that the industry is “largely ungoverned,” leading to erosion, flooding, saltier aquifers, and the collapse of coastal defenses.