The United Nations Development Programme UNDP Country Director in Uganda, Almaz Gebru says that as Uganda aspires to become a lower middle-income country, development minerals will play a key role, especially in construction and infrastructure development.
Development minerals refer to minerals that are mined, processed and used locally. They include items like sand, gravel, boulders, salt, gypsum and other dimensional and semi-precious stones, usually viewed as low value or no minerals at all.
The United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) Country Director in Uganda, Almaz Gebru says that as Uganda aspires to become a lower middle-income country, development minerals will play a key role, especially in construction and infrastructure development.
He was speaking at the 6th Mineral Wealth Conference ongoing in Kampala.
Gebru said with the construction sector contributing 12 percent of GDP, and with a housing deficit of 12.6 million housing units, the importance of development minerals cannot be overemphasized.
According to Gebru, development minerals provide lots of opportunities like jobs, especially for women, adding that developing the sector is one way of enhancing livelihoods and reducing poverty in the country.
He observed an urgent need to improve the legal and regulatory framework in order to propel the growth of the development minerals sub-sector. Gebru added that the growth of development minerals in particular, and minerals generally, should not be at the expense of health, safety, environment, tourism and aquatic life.
The Head of Delegation of the European Union to Uganda, Ambassador Attilio Pacifici, said development minerals, unlike precious minerals, contribute to sustainable development.
Vincent Kedi, the Principal Engineer Mining, said in early day's development minerals were not even included in legal and policy documents, a trend that has been reversed in new laws and policy documents.
Kedi said Ugandans interact with development minerals on a daily basis, adding that they are the closest minerals citizens could exploit to transform their lives.
Jennifer Hinton, General Manager of Auranda Minerals, which has conducted a baseline survey of the development minerals sub-sector, said nine percent of Ugandans are engaged in the sub-sector.
Hinton said with 700,000 graduates annually, the development minerals sub-sector is crucial in providing jobs, especially for peri-urban youths. Hinton said since the outputs of development minerals are local, they contribute to the improvement of livelihoods of those engaged in the sub-sector, boost to local businesses, the construction sector, infrastructure projects and ultimately contributing to socio-economic development of the country.
Phillo Aryatwijuka, a programme officer with Ecological Christian Organisation, said the emphasis should be put on skilling players in the development minerals sub-sector.
Albert Tusiime, the Manager of Eco Concrete Uganda, said the development minerals sub-sector provides lots of opportunities for the private sector, which needs to nurtured.
Before independence, the minerals sector contributed to 30 percent of Uganda's GDP, dropping to six percent in the 1990s, and further down to 0.4 percent in 2010, according to the World Bank.
Globally, development minerals like limestone, sand, gravel and boulders generate more in value than precious metals like gold and copper.