Uganda's 2009 mineral exports earnings seen edging up
By Elias Biryabarema
KAMPALA (Reuters) - Uganda expects to earn about $55 million from its mineral exports this year, higher than $52.7 million in 2008, a government official said.
The east African nation's mining sector is viewed as underexploited with small scale miners mainly involved in gold and cobalt, the leading mineral exports. Earnings from the resources reached a high of $88 million in 2007.
Uganda recently completed mapping 80 percent of the country and the geological data obtained is already spurring increased investor interest in the sector, Joshua Tuhumwire, head of the department of geological survey and mines, told Reuters.
"There is an increase in the number of companies taking up exploration licenses. The number of licenses currently is about 500 from 360 one year ago," Tuhumwire said in an interview late on Friday.
The lingering impact of the global economic crisis was stifling investments in Uganda's mining sector, he said.
"Exploration investment funds are raised on stock markets mainly in Toronto, London, Vancouver, New York, Australia and others," he said. "With the economic downturn... exploration spending has gone down remarkably, and Uganda has been no exception."
A three-year geophysical survey whose findings were released in July showed Uganda has sizeable deposits of a variety of minerals including phosphates, collumbite tantalite, chromite, diamond, gold, tin and wolfram.
Uganda was a major exporter of copper in the 1960s, from the vast deposits at Kilembe mine on the foothills of the Rwenzori Mountains in the country's southwestern region. Continued...