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Cobalt minerals

Government to launch an online mineral licensing system

By Benjamin Mukose

In a bid to improve efficiency, transparency and investment in the minerals sector in Uganda, the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development is in the final stages of developing an online mineral licensing system. The Infrastructure Magazine understands that the system developed by Trimble,  an American company with a global footprint, will be launched in August.

“Through the online system, our clients will now be able to submit applications online as well as undertake all other statutory business processes such as making payments, reporting, submission or returns and renewals of their applications,” the Ministry said in a press statement.

“The system is expected to improve transparency and increase access to information, boost productivity, reduce on time taken to process applications for mineral rights, significantly enhance government revenue collection potential and minimize non-compliance in the sector,” the statement added.

When this Magazine attempted to check out the system (Uganda Mining Cadastral system), we found this message on its front end: “The Directorate of Geological Survey and Mines (DGSM) is currently undertaking a data validation exercise of all licenses in Uganda. Please contact the DGSM…. if data issues are noted. Map Portal data is updated in real time.”

However,  we were able to establish that the system will enable prospectors to select a location around the country and the type of mining license they intend to apply for or renew. It will also enable prospectors to initiate payments for any mining related statutory dues.

The system shows a map of Uganda with marks of different minerals located in different parts of the country. Some of the minerals listed on the portal include: Gold, Tin, Cobalt, Lithium Vermiculite, Chromium, Iron Ore, Wolfram, among others.

The Infrastructure Magazine has established that Uganda is a late comer in putting in place systems like these. In the region, Kenya and Tanzania established the system nearly 10 years ago. In East Africa Tanzania has especially been praised for reforming her mining sector bringing better management and administration which resulted in astronomical rise in revenues from minerals and raising the contribution of mineral to the national revenues (now contributing 5 per cent to the GDP).

Eng. Paul Masanja, Tanzania’s Commissioner for Minerals, said,  “The introduction of a transactional Mining Cadastre Portal is a very important step in our effort to enhance transparency and good governance in the mineral sector, as well as improving management of mineral licences in Tanzania. In addition to being accessible across the internet, the portal will be available to the public at the Ministry Headquarters and at our 21 regional offices.”

Najib Balala, former Kenya’s Cabinet Secretary for Mining (now Secretary for Tourism), said back in 2015 about their own system: Spatial Dimension has been a long term technology partner of the Ministry of Mining and so it was natural for us to turn to them when we wanted to implement an online mining cadastre system. My goal, and one of the key focus areas for my Government, is to use modern technology to provide services to our citizens and stakeholders in an efficient and transparent manner. The new online Mining Cadastre System will be the foundation to this initiative.”

Two years ago, Global Witness, an International NGO working on the fight against corruption and protection of environment published a damning report alleging corruption, mismanagement and political influence and how they combined to  undermine investment in Uganda’s mining sector and threatening people and environment.

Trimble prides itself as one of the world leaders in developing hardware, software for surveying and land management, mining, among others. A NASDAQ listed company, Trimble boats of “ transforming the way the world works by delivering products and services that connect the physical and digital worlds. The world’s most successful mining companies turn to Trimble for land management solutions that assist them in managing their complex portfolios of land and mineral rights and responsibilities,” the company says on its website.

“Trimble’s land management solutions provide integrated, up-to-date, and accurate information ensuring mining companies meet their obligations — month after month, year after year. “From purpose built products to enterprise lifecycle solutions, Trimble software, hardware and services are transforming industries such as agriculture, construction, geospatial and transportation and logistics.”

Some of the companies that use Trimble’s technologies include global mining giants like Anglo American, Anglo Gold Ashanti, Barrick Gold Inc, Rio Tinto, among others. Some of the countries that have deployed Trimble’s systems in Africa  include Kenya, Bolivia, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, among others.

“With a press of a button, all our monthly obligations are managed, something that in the past used to take forever. Government Departments get paid their prospecting fees / royalty payments in time without late payment which in the past attracted interest payments…[Landfolio for Natural Resources] is without a doubt a management tool for Anglo American in managing its assets today, tomorrow and in time to come,” said  Carol-Ann Mocke, a paralegal officer, Anglo American, South Africa.

In a clear indication of how licence holders have abused the old system, the Ministry of Energy & Mineral Development (Uganda) warned in their statement: “The Ministry hereby calls upon all mineral rights holders/agents to settle their outstanding  fees and royalty arrears by 31 July 2019. Failure to do so, the licensee will automatically their mineral licenses, new applications will not be uploaded onto the system and will face prosecution in accordance with section 105 of the Mining Act 2003 without any further notice at their peril and associated costs.”

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