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Despite the potential of its known gold deposits, Uganda has no history of large-scale gold mining. Instead, the story of gold focuses largely on informal artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and on the gold trade that extends through the region. Recent changing global trends in gold investment are stimulating the expansion of both refining and industrial extraction. Here we explore how these trends become articulated in the Ugandan context, with a focus on ASGM. Reflecting nationalistic discourse and new planning priorities, government today characterises gold as a “national treasure” and an engine for development transformation. To this end, and in line with initiatives promoted by multilateral agencies, it seeks to encourage the industrial sector coupled with the formalisation of small-scale gold mining. These formalisation dynamics are embedded within a context in which a semi-authoritarian regime privileges a (trans)national elite whose interests in gold extend into mining and into (trans)national trade and refining. Against this background, we echo a familiar story where emphasis is placed on investment in industrial mining and where institutional and regulatory capacity is weak, namely that formalisation privileges some gold miners while reinforcing inequalities, undermining potential for equity and discounting the value of the wider sector for people’s livelihoods.
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Uganda: Gold as a (Trans)National Treasure
Eleanor Fisher, Lorenzo D’Angelo, Ronald Twongyirwe,
and Esther van de Camp
12.1 Introduction
According to media accounts, in 2017 soldiers and police evicted 60,0001
Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Miners (ASGM) from Mubende Dis-
trict, Uganda, following a presidential directive (McCool 2019; Semakula
2018). Government framed the evictions in terms of restoring order,
connected to allegations that unlicensed ASGM were a security threat
and degrading the environment. At the heart of contention were
E. Fisher (B)·L. D’Angelo
University of Reading, Reading, UK
L. D’Angelo
R. Twongyirwe
Mbarara University of Science and Technology, Mbarara, Uganda
E. van de Camp
University of Leiden, Leiden, The Netherlands
© The Author(s) 2020
B. Verbrugge and S. Geenen (eds.),
Global Gold Production Touching Ground, 3-030- 38486-9_12
accusations that miners encroached on mining company claims, like those
of AUC Mining. AUC Mining is locally registered, with British and
Ugandan shareholders who include Gertrude Njuba, a presidential advi-
sor and former “bush-war fighter” (Semakula 2018; McCool 2019;see
also Pike 2019: 291). The Mubende evictions give apt expression to the
contentious politics of gold mining in Uganda; disputes between ASGM
and mining companies are growing in intensity and frequency and gov-
ernment approach to informal ASGM can be heavy-handed.
Gold deposits are present in several districts (Fig. 12.1) and have stim-
ulated interest since the early twentieth century, with recent new discov-
eries (Job 1967;DGSM2017/2018). Nevertheless, historically there was
no large-scale gold mining and limited medium-scale mining, with gold
extraction confined to artisanal and small-scale activity. In preference to
gold, large-scale mining focused on blister copper and cobalt (Siviour
1969). Yet, civil unrest in the 1970s led to collapse of this formal mining
industry (UNEP 2012). It is against this background that we argue that
the historical absence of large-scale gold mining and gold’s peripheral
role in Uganda’s economic development is not simply due to geology
and availability of gold deposits or to technology. It also relates to the
politics of mineral sector (under)development, including how this con-
tributed to lack of priority placed on the acquisition of new geological
knowledge until the 2000s (cf. Nyakecho and Hagemann 2014), coupled
with long-term under-investment in exploration (c.f. Luning 2012). In
this light, it becomes relevant to understand how wider global trends in
gold production are articulated within Uganda’s institutional and political
environment and what this implies for ASGM.
Of relevance here is the character of the current political system,
which is described variously as semi-authoritarian and neo-patrimonial
(Golooba-Mutebi and Hickey 2016; Mwenda 2007; Reuss and Titeca
2017). When the National Resistance Movement (NRM)2assumed
power in 1986, the liberation struggle (the so-called “bush war”) pro-
vided moral authority, giving legitimacy to both patronage and coer-
cion (Reuss and Titeca 2017). President Museveni’s leadership has deliv-
ered political stability and economic growth. However, its progres-
sive character has diminished as the national elite struggle to stay in
power (Golooba-Mutebi and Hickey 2016; Reuss and Titeca 2017).
Thus, Museveni and family members exercise considerable influence on
national economic affairs. Political loyalties are also prized for the military,
whose interests extend into natural resource exploitation, including gold
Fig. 12.1 Distribution of gold in Uganda (Source Authors, drawing on DGSM
(Brett 1995; Tangri and Mwenda 2003; Vlassenroot et al. 2012). As in
the case of oil (Hickey and Isama 2017), we argue this political status quo
carries the danger of jeopardising the potential gold holds for contribut-
ing to equitable development transformation.
Within this context, there is a dynamic ASGM sector, including in the
southwest (Kigezi, Buhweju), west (Kanungu), centre (Mubende), east
(Busia, Namiringo), and northeast (Karamoja) (Fig. 12.1). Gold extrac-
tion is primarily alluvial, although there is some manual hard rock mining.
Estimates on ASGM numbers include figures of “at least” 20,000 (UNEP
2012) updated to 40,000. Artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) over-
all is estimated to employ 190,000 Ugandans, compared to 2000 jobs
in industrial mining (Barreto et al. 2018:v,citingMEMD2009). ASM
produces 90% of most minerals, including gold. Data from 2013 (Craw-
ford et al. 2015) indicated only 5% of this ASM was formally licensed,
although formalisation is changing this picture, as we shall elaborate.
Another important aspect to a portrait of gold in Uganda, which
is beyond the scope of this chapter to elaborate, is the gold trade, in
terms of both internal trade and Uganda’s position in regional trade.
Trade networks cross borders and are embedded within localities, encom-
passing dealers, markets, state institutions, and transport infrastructure
(e.g. Geenen and Cuvelier 2019;Meager1990;Titeca2012). The trade
is overwhelmingly informal and partly illegal but it also has legitimate
aspects that entwine the formal and informal economies (Blore 2015;also
GW 2017; Muthemu-Salter 2015). Internationally, the United Arab Emi-
rates (UAE) is a major destination, although gold is also sent to China,
Qatar, Hong Kong, US, Russia, UK, and South Korea (Blore 2015;
DGSM 2017/2018).
Uganda’s position within the regional gold trade plays into gold refin-
ing, which holds recent importance within government plans over rev-
enue capture from processing. In 2017, the first large refinery “African
Gold Refinery” (ARG) started operations backed by Belgian gold mag-
nate, Alain Goetz. AGR has been joined by others, reflecting an invest-
ment trend in the region.3Gold exports from the refiner y are instru-
mental to Uganda being described as undergoing a “gold boom” (EIU
2019). Indeed, in 2019, gold overtook coffee as the premier earner of
foreign exchange, with official exports up 194% in volume since 2012.4
However, an estimated 90% of the refined ore is produced outside the
country (EIU 2019).
The United Nations (UN) and Non-Governmental Organisations
(NGOs) are critical of Uganda’s gold refining, claiming it includes illegally
traded gold from Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC), South Sudan,
and Tanzania (GW 2017; The Sentry 2018;UN2018). Claims regard-
ing the illicit gold trade from DRC have a long legacy in Uganda, having
surfaced since the 1965–1966 “Gold Allegations Parliamentary Motion”
(Mujaju 1986) and between 1998 and 2003 (the second Congolese war)
(UN 2002; Mthembu-Salter 2015; Vlassenroot et al. 2012). Recent con-
troversy on gold refining at AGR extends further afield, including on gold
from Venezuela (OCCRP 2019).
The evictions of ASGM in Mubende, referred to above, occurred six
months after the opening of AGR. The words of President Museveni con-
nect government’s approach to ASGM and refining’s role in the formali-
sation of the gold trade. Hence, Museveni declared:
the gold from this area …[Mubende]… used to be smuggled outside the
country and sold on the black market. The government would lose rev-
enue. We constructed a gold refinery in Entebbe and if we follow the
process soon the issue of gold mining will be sorted […] gold is a national
treasure; it is not meant for only a few. When the country gets profits
from gold, everyone will have their share. But the miners did not want
that, and we can’t accept it. The Congolese, Rwandans and Tanzanians
who had come to mine from here should first leave our country.5
Museveni’s speech exposes contradictions in the politics of gold extrac-
tion: while he plays the card of resource nationalism to the mining
community, the hand being dealt involves dependence on refining using
infrastructures backed by non-Ugandans and gold ore sourced externally.
In considering how trends in gold production are manifest in different
parts of the globe, Verbrugge and Geenen (2018 and this book) examine
how a “global gold commodity frontier,” enfolding both industrial
mining and ASGM, is moving outside its historical core and in the
process widening through geographic expansion and deepening through
socio-technical innovation. Our chapter speaks to their conceptualisation
by exploring how global gold production touches down in Uganda and
is articulated within local political and institutional dynamics, with a
focus on formalisation processes within ASGM. We proceed by outlining
the shifting position of the gold sector in Ugandan mineral develop-
ment, as government seeks to embrace its “national treasure.” Then we
elaborate on the expansion of the formal gold mining sector. This leads
us to explore how formalisation plays out locally using examples from
Mubende and Busia districts, followed by our concluding discussion.
12.2 Harnessing the Development
Potential of Gold
Today government considers mining as a priority sector in its Vision
20406to “drive major transformation for revenue, employment, and eco-
nomic lifeline industries” (NPA 2013: 50). Gold is amongst thirty indus-
trial and metallic minerals identified for exploitation, alongside expanding
investment in oil and gas extraction (DGSM, n.d.). Significantly, gold is
situated within a wider extractives portfolio without, we would argue,
being the dominant mineral. Hence, the gold sector is not an exclusive
planning priority for extractives development.
12.2.1 Mining Sector Law and Policy
The lead agency for mining is the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Devel-
opment (MEMD), responsible for policy oversight and conflict reso-
lution. Within this, the Department of Geological Survey and Mining
(DGSM) implements mining law and regulations; other government bod-
ies have relevant responsibilities (see Barreto et al. 2018).
In the early 2000s, revisions to the Mining Act of 1964 signalled a
move towards a World Bank-inspired, “investor-friendly,” Minerals Pol-
icy (2001), Mining Act (2003), and Regulations (2004). Between 2004
and 2011, the donor-funded national Sustainable Management of Mineral
Resources Project (SMMRP) sought to reinvigorate the minerals sector,
including strengthening institutional capacity for ASM (UNEP 2012).
The SMMRP conducted geological surveys and established a Geological
and Mineral Information System (GMIS) and Unpublished Document
Information System (UDIS); consequence being, a sharp rise in applica-
tions for exploration licences and mining leases to the DGSM (Crawford
2015: 28). With government now considering mining a priority sector,
a new Mining and Minerals Policy (2018) has been introduced and the
Mining and Minerals Bill (2019) is being ratified. Emphasis is on develop-
ing an industrial mining sector coupled with ASM formalisation (MEMD
Many challenges confront development of the minerals sector that
feed into the dynamics of ASGM formalisation. They include difficulty
balancing national and sub-national interests; poor clarity over respon-
sibilities and accountability between institutions; weak harmonisation of
land and natural resource use; and an ineffective licensing and contrac-
tual regime (ACEMP, n.d.). Harsh criticism comes from Global Wit-
ness (2017), which argues institutional corruption and vested interests
are stymying attempts to reform the mining industry, including through
speculation on mineral licences.
12.2.2 Formal Gold Mining of Different Scales
In the absence of large-scale transnational mining companies, the gold
sector attracts smaller investors, both Ugandan nationals and foreign (e.g.
from Ethiopia, Kenya, South Africa, India, Russia, Australia, UK, and
China).7Where there are known goldfields, exploration licences cover
large areas of land (Fig. 12.2). Nevertheless, while many prospecting and
exploration licences are issued, underinvestment in exploration has been
a long-term problem.8
As elsewhere in Africa, Chinese investment is expanding (Mayers and
Barungi 2019). A 21-year mining lease in application in 2019 conveys the
character of “large-scale” investment with Chinese involvement: Waga-
gai Mining is a joint venture formed between Roraima and Elgon Min-
erals, directed by an Ethiopian with Chinese backing. The Lease cov-
ers 9.22 km2in Busia District for a large-scale gold extraction plant.9
Mineable reserves are estimated to be 12.5 tonnes, the largest quantified
deposit in Uganda (Odyek 2018).
Up to 2015, government had issued nineteen licences for gold mining:
eight mining leases and eleven 16 ha location licences.10 In 2019, there
were 209 exploration licences (6 June 2019), and the eight mining leases
were joined by three applications for new mining leases.11 Significantly,
the number of location licences for ASGM has risen rapidly: seven were
issued between 2012 and 2017, expanding to fifty-nine in 2018–2019,
with 20 pending.12 This legalisation of small-scale mineral holdings has
been incremental because ASGM can hold memoranda of understanding
with nearby licence-holders (Fisher 2018; ACEMP, n.d.).
Regarding how much—formally declared—gold is produced, govern-
ment records less than 100 kg per year between 2014 and 2018 with
an annual maximum of 12.7 kg in 2014/2015 (DGSM 2015/2016,
Fig. 12.2 Distribution of gold exploration licences in Uganda (Source Authors,
drawing on Accessed 23 October
2016/2017,2017/2018). Due to refining incorporating imported ore,
export data differs from production: from 199 kg (2012),13 to 12,475 kg
(2018), with value increasing 193% from US$9165 to US$498,174 (UBS
2015,2018). Data is lacking on undeclared production though estimates
hint this may be substantial: Schipper et al. (2016: 23) estimates 2.8
tonnes are produced nationally per annum, while Barreto et al. (2018:
19) exclude quantities but estimate a market value of USD 36 million per
annum from Karamoja district alone (see also Houdet et al. 2014). It is to
this large informal yet, formalising, ASGM sector to which we now turn.
12.2.3 Formalising an Informal Sector
In interview,14 the Acting Director of the DGSM stressed the main chal-
lenges facing ASGM are “disorganisation and lack of capacity building,”
artisanal mining has two clusters, those artisanal miners who are disorgan-
ised and work like chickens in a garden scratching around, they find a fleck
of gold and go to the bar … others are organised, they have an association
with an address, the Commissioner can access them because they have an
address, they do not have a license but they have an address. These are the
miners we want to encourage.
This view of differences between “organised” and “disorganised” miners
typifies how ASGM is approached by government officials.
Until the 2003 Mining Act, ASGM was unlicensed and therefore inher-
ently informal, hence “disorganised.” UNEP (2012: 7) argues informal-
ity extended to the gold trade and to institutions charged with regulat-
ing the sector (e.g. through lack of incorporation of mining oversight
into work-plans and budgets). The Mining Act (2003: IV) instigated for-
malisation of ASGM, introducing location licences for “mining opera-
tions [51% Ugandan-owned] by methods which do not involve substan-
tial expenditure [<UGX 10 million] …[or]… use of specialized technol-
ogy.” The 2018 Mining and Minerals Policy further encourages ASGM
formalisation, including through promotion of Artisanal and Small-scale
Miner Organisations (ASMOs), facilitation of access to licences, credit
and equipment, and provision of market information. The establishment
of a Police Mineral Protection Unit, with the power to investigate, arrest,
and prosecute illegal miners, is intended by government as a vehicle
to get miners to declare production through formal channels (DGSM
2017/2018). Biometric registration is being introduced, including tag-
ging to specific mineral commodities.
Limited local government budget to address environmental, social and
health issues associated with ASGM is a major constraint for develop-
ment of the wider sector. Indeed, it is argued that effective strategy to
develop ASGM—in terms of institutional, financial and technical sup-
port—remains lacking (Barreto et al. 2018: 9). In principle, distribution
of royalty payments from ASGM (i.e. revenue from location licensing and
formal gold sales) covers 10% to district administration, 7% to the sub-
county administration, and 3% to landowners, with 80% to central gov-
ernment (MEMD 2018). Allocation is yet be distributed, for example, in
Busia district where there are 10 location licences, local government had
not received budget allocation by early 2019.15
To summarise, as the minerals sector gains greater prominence in
national development, gold gains increasing visibility as a (trans) national
treasure. Recognising that past absence of gold mining related to politics
as much as geological or technological factors, sectoral development takes
place in a political context in which national elite and foreign interests
are gravitating towards gold’s investment potential, as trends in global
gold production become manifest in Uganda. Against this background,
we turn now to how formalisation of ASGM is taking place within gold
mining localities.
12.3 The Dynamics
of a National Treasurefor ASGM
As demand for gold-rich land intensifies, a combination of threat from
large-scale mining interests, ASGM mobilisation in defence of mineral
rights and recognition by some miners of the benefits of licensing, feeds
into the dynamics of formalisation. Within this context, action by gov-
ernment at different levels can be both punitive and supportive. Licence
acquisition is encouraged but there is lack of wider institutional and finan-
cial support for sectoral planning to develop the sector. Stepping into the
breach are a growing number of NGOs, active in advocacy and capacity
building. We give a taste of these processes in Mubende—the locus of the
2017 evictions—and Busia districts.
12.3.1 The Politics of Formalisation in Mubende
At the time of writing (2019), in Mubende district there are two min-
ing leases (AUC Mining 580.6 ha 1994–2030, Kisita Mining 8.716 km2
2002–2023), forty-five location licences, and twenty-seven exploration
licences.16 ASGM licensing is recent, there were zero location licences
in 2015 (Schipper et al. 2016: 21). As our introduction intimated, for-
malisation has been politically charged.
From the late 1980s, small gold rushes occurred, expanding in 2008
(UNEP 2012). New discoveries in 2012 stimulated a large mine rush,
attracting Ugandans, Tanzanians, Congolese, Sudanese, Burundians, and
Rwandans and leading to rapid informal growth of service providers, petty
businesses and gold dealers, etc. The discoveries led to “much jockey-
ing amongst investors and others to acquire and enforce different forms
of mining licenses” (Buss et al. 2017: 23). This followed the establish-
ment of the GMIS and UDIS by the SMMRP and DGSM, meaning
investors had access to new geological information. Investors in Mubende
included AUC Mining, Kisita Mining and M/C Gemstones International,
which acquired exploration rights covering parishes with high concentra-
tions of unlicensed ASGM. Apparently one company relinquished 40 ha
to ASGM, hoping to remain undisturbed in the rest.
Buss et al. (2017) suggest some ASGM responded to the scramble for
gold-rich land by forming associations. Giving the example of one asso-
ciation’s aims, they argue the aims were to manage miners in a licensed
area, collect revenue, and provide infrastructure and security. Dominated
by men, ActionAid Uganda supported women to form a league within
this association (Mpagi et al. 2017). At least five other groups formed
at this time (ACEMP, n.d.). It is amongst these groups that location
licences are now concentrated.17 Authors (Buss et al. 2017; Muheki and
Geenen 2018; Rutherford and Buss 2019) point to elite capture and gen-
der inequalities within these associations, particularly multi-faceted gender
inequalities (Muheki and Geenen 2018) and social dynamics that enable
only some women to become organised (Rutherford and Buss 2019).
The mine rush in 2012, ensuing conflict with mining companies and
rising social troubles drew government attention to the problem of “dis-
organised” mining in Mubende. According to Associated Press, the Direc-
tor of DGSM stated “these people are scratching across the surface, like
rats” … “small-scale miners live hand to mouth. They cannot set up a
proper mine” (Muhumuza 2015). Reports abounded of illicit “tax col-
lection” by district and sub-county officials, by landowners and by asso-
ciations. DGSM officials considered evicting the mining population but
recognised it would be unpopular prior to the 2016 national elections.
In the event, evictions took place in 2017, after Museveni and the NRM
were re-elected.
The furore caused by the evictions stimulated intense lobbying: local
Members of Parliament (MPs) proposed Parliamentary recall for debate;
miners reminded the President they had voted for him; they also met his
brother, General Salim Saleh, Head of “Operation Wealth Creation”18
who pledged they would return to work (OIU 2017; Nunis 2017). In
turn, AUC Mining put together a dossier to make a case as legal owner of
the encroached claims. Stepping in as mediator, the President brokered a
meeting and subsequently ordered 30% of land under exploration licences
to be re-allocated to ASGM by the DGSM (Nnabbaale 2018;alsoPike
In a further twist, the 30% was divided between “Mubende United
Miners Assembly” (MUMA) and the “Federation of Artisanal & Small-
Scale Miners” (FASSM), the latter reportedly registered to the late daugh-
ter of AUC shareholder, Gertrude Njuba (McCool 2019). Fresh negoti-
ations led the ASGM—anxious to return to work—to accept a 10% area
(Ssekika 2019). In 2019, the DGSM approved applications for explo-
ration licences by MUMA and FASSM19; government also took 30 min-
ers on a study tour to Tanzania.
This example of the claim-making processes associated with evictions
in Mubende provides a taste of power dynamics around formalisation,
including processes that have reinforced elite capture of resources. Local
MPs represented the voice of miners to Parliament while an emboldened
President played Janus roles as autocrat and benefactor; also involved,
General Salim Saleh, reputed to be accessible to entrepreneurs (and long
tarnished by allegations over illegal gold extraction from the DRC). Over
this period, NGOs supported ASGM in Mubende, leading us to turn to
an NGO’s role in association formation in Busia.
12.3.2 Civil Society Action in Busia
Gold mining has taken place in Busia since the early Twentieth century.
Alluvial and hard rock deposits, with small but high-grade vein quartz
mineralisation, are extracted through a combination of shaft and open-
caste mining and alluvial panning, the latter mainly by women. There has
been one mechanised operation and cyanidation plant in Busia for years,
Greenstone Resources (Busitema), which holds a mining lease (1994–
2003). In 2019, it was due to be joined by Wagagai Mining, at the time
of writing negotiating the resettlement of 400 households. There are ten
location licences (3 to individuals, 7 to associations), with one further
application.20 Ten exploration licences cover goldfields in the district.
While some miners are third or fourth generation, many are migrants
with landlords providing access to gold-bearing land. ASMOs incorpo-
rate these (male) landlords who are amongst a local elite made wealthy
by gold. There is a dynamic informal gold market, with buyers in Busia
selling in Kampala and cross-border trade with Kenya.
Several NGOs have projects to support ASGM. Taking an example,
an early intervention was by NGO Environmental Women in Action
for Development (EWAD) for the Fairtrade Foundation (2012 onwards)
(Fisher 2018). EWAD worked with miners to form registered Arti-
sanal and Small-scale Miners Organisations (ASMOs), to acquire location
licences and to rationalise production and processing to become Fairtrade
compliant. According to the Director of EWAD:
we made it easier for them, they started to register at the grassroots level,
then the district, we helped them to leave Busia and go to DGSM and face
officers, there was a lot of fear and misunderstanding.21
New groups are today forming ASMOs, although without support a
“breakthrough” to formalisation can be difficult.22 Four ASMOs, sup-
ported by EWAD, illustrate an NGO’s role in the formalisation process
and subsequent differentiation and power dynamics.
The first ASMO, Busia United Small-scale Miners’ Organisation
(BUSMO), was started by five landowners, recipients of past SMMRP
training. Following a 6-year dispute with Greenstone, which sought to
take over areas worked by artisanal miners, BUSMO became a registered
association to protect against displacement, obtaining a location licence
in 2012. Internally though, BUSMO has a history of conflictual power
relations within its leadership and also, weak female empowerment (Fisher
Two other ASMOs formed at this time: Syanyonja Artisan Miners
Alliance (SAMA) and Tiira Small-scale Miners Association (TIISMA).
SAMA brought together four groups of miners to become the first
Fairtrade-certified gold mine in Africa (a status later revoked) (Fisher
2018). Originally operating under written agreements with BUSMO and
with Roraima Mining, EWAD facilitated SAMA to obtain a location
licence in 2018, concerned it could be displaced by a mining company.
Since 2012, SAMA’s technological and productive capacity has consoli-
dated, improving recovery rates and reduction in mercury use.
The case of TIISMA is revealing of local power dynamics, both with
respect to gender and to the relationship between ASGM and foreign
investors. Fisher (2018) described TIISMA as an up and coming ASMO
with strong female leadership; subsequent events challenge this charac-
terisation. While the majority of members were women, three male lead-
ers negotiated an agreement with a Turkish investor who started mining
within their claim. He subsequently persuaded the ASMO to become a
company in his own name but this created conflict that has progressed to
an impending court case.
Finally, Angariama Miners Association (AMA), a younger ASMO and
dominated by female members, demonstrates local gender power dynam-
ics. As AMA lacks ownership of land (due to land typically being owned
by men), members struggle to obtain both a location licence and loans.
Reports on ASGM in Busia note the fragility of operations, beset by
mine collapse and water logging, with an underlying issue of lack of ade-
quate capital for equipment and running costs, plus inadequate electricity
services (ACEMP, n.d.; Fisher 2018). Nevertheless, the rationalisation of
production and rapid socio-technological change have been taking place
around these ASMOs. Input by NGOs—coupled with capital accumu-
lation enabling investment—has stimulated miners to incorporate novel
ideas and techniques, as well as to make investments in new technology.
For example, five years ago, manual ore crushing using pestle and mortars
was ubiquitous, this has given way to ball mills. Timbered shafts started
to be made after miners went on a peer exchange trip to Tanzania. Exca-
vators are also now being used to dig larger open-caste mines.
The example of Busia contrasts to some extent with Mubende, insofar
as miners have not been confronted by violent dispossession. Nonethe-
less, both contexts have witnessed increased demand for gold-rich land
by investors, coupled with expansion of ASGM. Within ASGM, there has
been significant occupational transformation and socio-technical change,
accompanied by group mobilisation and formalisation, processes sup-
ported by NGOs. Unsurprisingly, government has favoured those ASGM
who form groups, are literate, have capital, and can complete licensing
procedures. At the same time, a “disorganised” majority—scratching like
“chickens” or “rats”—those working as mine labourers, in processing,
service provision and petty trade, etc., even with positive policy and leg-
islative change, remain largely informal and unsupported either by gov-
ernment or civil society.
12.4 Conclusions
The politics of extraction in Uganda reveal multiple ways in which gold’s
potentiality has become visible as a (trans)national treasure. A ruling coali-
tion under pressure after over forty years in power frame this potential-
ity of gold and underpin formalisation dynamics within regional locali-
ties. ASGM has historical roots extending back to the 1920s; however, it
has expanded significantly in recent years, both in terms of the quantity
of mining tacking place and its character as a dynamic sector attracting
new people, technology, and capital, while stimulating change in extrac-
tion and processing methods and vibrant trade relations. National politi-
cal dynamics have fed into gold expansion, with government welcoming
international agencies such as the World Bank to drive sectoral planning
and incentivising investment by mining companies. Government atten-
tion has also been drawn to opportunities to strengthen and invest in the
processing side of the gold industry, through industrial refining, which
has proved to be rapidly lucrative for government coffers, over and above
revenues to be captured from production, particularly from a—“disorgan-
ised” and thus uncontrollable—ASGM sector.
Around the country, the activities of mining companies, largely at
prospecting and exploration stages, have spawned heightened conflict
with miners and mining communities. Hence the space, both physical
and metaphorical, for informal ASGM is contracting. In a familiar story
regarding the process of formalising an informal sector, some groups of
ASGM benefit more than others, gaining greater mineral right security
and potential for capital accumulation. With increasing socio-technical
differentiation, coupled with underlying power disparities and a wider
political economy of elite capture, benefits readily flow to elites. This car-
ries the danger that inequities will be increasingly reinforced for a wider
mining population marginalised from development, given a context in
which deep contradictions are revealed by the politics of gold. Indeed, if
it really were a “national” treasure, government could support ASGM by
investing in production and sectoral development.
Acknowledgements Three grants have permitted the authors to contribute
to this chapter: (i) GCRF Network for Interdisciplinary Partnership on Min-
eral Sector Development, Social Equity and Inclusion in Africa (Ref: 100165);
(ii) GOLD MATTERS (ref: 462.17.201) financed by the Belmont Forum
and NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Transformations to Sustainabil-
ity, which is co-funded by DLR/BMBF, ESRC, FAPESP, ISC, NWO, VR,
and the European Commission through Horizon 2020; (iii) VLIR-UOS (ref:
1. We cannot verify this figure. ACEMP (n.d.) reports 60,000 ASGMs reg-
istered in Kitumbi sub-county, encompassed by the evictions—25,000 in
mining, 35,000 in mining-related services.
2. The military wing of the NRM was known as the National Resistance
Army, renamed the Uganda People’s Defence Force (UPDF) in 1995 (see
Pike 2019).
3. Rwanda is refining gold and Chinese investment is promised for Tanzania.
4. Accessed 30 June 2019.
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11. The companies are: AUC Mining (1994–2030) and Kisita Mining (2003–
2023) (Mubende district); Greenstone Resources Ltd. (1994–2030)
(Busia District); Simba Mines & Mineral Resources (2015–2023) and
Shaft Sinkers Ltd. (2011–2032) (Ibanda & Kamwenge districts); East Asia
Land and Mining Co. (2014–2035) (Buhweju district); African Panther
Resources (2014–2036), for base metals, cassiterite, gold, silver (Isingiro
district); Ascort Mining for gold, tantalite and tin (2018–2019) (Kisoro
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export firms reduced legal exports (UN 2014); the introduction of new
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19. In September 2019, approval was granted exploration licences to MUMA
for 10.92 km2(TN3082) and FASSM for 43.97 (EL1903) plus applica-
tions for 1.97 km2(TN3097) and 4.63 km2(TN3097). In addition to a
mining lease AUC had four exploration licences for a total of 309.8 km2 Accessed 13 September 2019.
20. Authors’ estimates. Accessed
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