Mining and Its Impacts Report Cover

This Report exposes the existing and likely impacts of mining and extractive activities, with a focus on the districts of Hoima and Buliisa in Bunyoro, Uganda. Building on the earlier legal study conducted by NAPE in 2010, this Report also examines some of the legal and policy instruments at the national, regional and international levels. It also identifies potential arguments which communities could develop and advocate to push for stronger recognition of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, water and food sovereignty, and their rights and responsibilities to govern, protect and defend themselves from the impacts of mining and extractive activities. The Report also recommends capacity building, legal and policy measures and advocacy messages for the protection and defence of Sacred Natural Sites and Territories, water and food sovereignty, and the customary governance systems of their custodian communities, to enable communities and civil society to take effective action and influence decisions to prevent and minimise impacts of mining.

Mining and extractive activities in Uganda, and around the world, are accelerating at an alarming rate. According to the Ugandan Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), mining is expected to play a large role in the future economic development of Uganda. They say that mining will create jobs and is envisaged to be the biggest foreign exchange earner in the coming years. Ugandan oil has attracted the attention of international extractives corporations. Following an agreement with the Ugandan Government in 2012, UK company Tullow, French company Total, and the Chinese National Offshore Oil Company (CNOOC) have been granted access to operate oil mining activities in the Albertine region of Uganda. The Albertine Rift region has an estimated 3.5 billion barrels of oil and gas deposits. To date, 89 oil wells have been drilled in the Albertine Graben region, of which 76 oil wells have proved ‘successful’, that is, to be containing oil/hydrocarbons. More exploration sites have been designated. The extraction of oil and gas is expected to take place by 2017. However, it is not clear how long this mining boom will last. Nor is it clear how many jobs will be created, for how long, and how many other livelihoods will be lost in the long-term as a result of mining and extractive activities. The growing civil society movement are asking cri cal questions including: what will be sacrificed as a consequence, particularly in terms of water, food, land and climate change – which are the fundamental conditions for life and livelihoods to exist? As the decisions we make today will radically a ect the lives of future genera ons, are we factoring them into our decisions? How will the long-term ecological and social impacts be dealt with when there is no more to mine, and who will be held accountable?

The Bunyoro region, mid western Uganda is celebrated for its rich biodiversity, playing host to several national parks with an abundance of biological and cultural diversity heritage. The region is especially abundant in water, food growing areas and Sacred Natural Sites and Territories. The Albertine rift is a watershed area, the source of numerous rivers and lakes which nourish surrounding ecosystems, on which human communi es and their livelihoods depend. The lake system supports not only Uganda but also neighbouring countries Sudan, Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) and Rwanda, which form part of the watershed. For centuries the region’s rich food production systems have been based on subsistence and peasant farming and fishing, and have successfully been feeding communities and maintaining healthy ecosystems. The relationship which communities have with their ecosystems runs deeply through their cultural and spiritual beliefs and tradi ons, and has ensured the protection of these systems for generations.

There are several Sacred Natural Sites in the Bunyoro region, known locally as Ihangiro, which are of ecological, spiritual and cultural importance and exist mainly in the form of water bodies (lakes and rivers), caves, rocks, forests and other “wild lands”. Such a network or system of sites is a common phenomenon. Sacred Natural Sites are believed to have been created by God at the me of Creation and are where ancestral spirits reside. The minerals and metals which may be found in fragile ecosystems including water bodies, cultivated land and in areas recognised by communi es to be of high spiritual and cultural importance, are there for a reason. Indigenous communi es understand the presence of minerals and metals beneath Mother Earth as an integral dimension of Nature which is part of the living system, and must continue to exist and be conserved. However, Governments and mining industries predominantly view these minerals and metals as ‘resources’ for economic gain, rather than as sacred and vital to Earth’s life support system. These are two very different world views – with a very different legacy.