We recently attended the Uganda Mineral Wealth Conference. The conference was organized by the Uganda Chamber of Mines and Petroleum in conjunction with the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral development and was sponsored by various organizations including a number of banks, such as Standard Chartered, dfcu Bank and Stanbic Bank. Euro Pacific Canada was the only North American-based investment bank present. Our presentation, The Importance of Clean Technologies and Policies in the Future of Africa’s Mining Industry, discussed the potential advantages of clean chemical processes, like the one used by Orbite Aluminae Inc. (TSX:ORT).
This event was well attended with delegates from a number of countries including; South Africa, Australia, Canada, China and the U.K. Uganda has a very strong agriculture industry and has recently discovered oil and gas reserves. Proven natural gas reserves as of January 1, 2013 were 500 billion cubic feet. U.K.-based Tullow Oil (LSE:TLW), Paris-based Total SA (ENXTPA:FP) and the China National Offshore Oil Corporation (CNOOC) are actively engaged in the exploration and development of the Ugandan oil and natural gas industry; production is expected in ~5 years. The Ugandan government, in a joint venture with Total and CNOOC, recently reached an agreement to build a refinery.
Uganda is now turning its attention to the development of its mineral resources. The country is rich in iron ore, copper, high-grade bauxite and phosphate, as well as all major strategic materials, including, but not limited to tantalum, tungsten and rare earths. There are also a number of brownfield gold projects and highly prospective gold resources across the country. Presenting companies included Blaze Metals LLC, Flemish Gold Corp., East African Gold plc, Sipa Resources Ltd. (ASX:SRI), Kweri Limited, AUC Mining Ltd., Krone Uganda Ltd., Principal-Mining and Mmakau Mining Ltd.
Mrs. Bridgette Radebe, nominated by Forbes magazine as one of Africa’s richest and most influential women was the keynote speaker. She is the founder of Mmakau Mining and is the oldest sister of South African mining magnate Patrice Tlhopane Motsepe. Mrs. Radebe participated in the design of the South African Mining Charter and the country’s current mining legislation. She is the President of the South African Mining Development Association and the Founder and Board Trustee for the New Africa Mining Fund. Mrs. Radebe also provides support to the chamber on regulatory matters.
On the second day of the conference, the President of Uganda, Mr. Yoweri Museveni, made an unexpected appearance. After listening to the requests of the chamber and mining companies, he told the audience that his government welcomes discussions that could lead to improvements to the mining regulatory framework and policies. President Museveni made it clear, however, that the exploitation of Uganda’s mineral resources needs to be coupled with the development of integrated industries that would generate jobs and build a stronger domestic economy.
The Ugandan government seems to be willing to establish favourable mining policies for the development of a strong mineral resources industry. Uganda has never conducted a comprehensive national minerals survey and doing so would likely uncover more of Uganda’s many resources. If more favourable mining policies are firmly established, Uganda could become a major jurisdiction for minerals and energy resources.