Although the government recognized the existence of several commercially important mineral deposits, it had not conducted comprehensive exploration surveys for non-oil minerals and, therefore, lacked estimates of their size. In the early 1970s, copper, tin, bismuth, tungsten, rare earths, phosphates, limestone, and beryl were being mined by commercial companies. The mining sector employed 8,000 people and accounted for 9 percent of exports. By 1979 almost all mineral production had ceased, and in 1987 only the mining and quarrying sector recorded any growth. Mining output increased an estimated 20 percent, largely because of the rapid growth in demand for road and housing construction materials, such as sand and gravel. In 1988 the government established a National Mining Commission, intended to encourage investment in the mining sector through joint ventures with the government. This commission also provided some support for small mining operations. In early 1988, the government introduced regulations of gold mining operations that gave the Bank of Uganda monopoly rights to buy gold mined in the country and to market gold at its discretion. In addition, the government initiated projects to rehabilitate the Kilembe copper mine and to extract cobalt from slag heaps at the mine at a combined cost of US$70 million. By late 1990, financing had been secured for preliminary rehabilitation of the mine's facilities, part of it from the Democratic People's Republic of Korea (North Korea). The French were involved in the cobalt venture; plans called for processing and export to France of at least 1,000 tons per year once technology was in place.
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