Brief Information on the Mineral Potential of Uganda

Various mineral occurrences have been detected in the territory of Uganda, they are connected to the known structure-metallogenic taxons with specific metallogenic differenciation as follows:

Besides, each structure-metallogenic taxon contains a wide specter of industrial minerals and construction materials. In addition, the results of the airborne geophysical surveys give grounds to expect presence of perspective kimberlite bodies.

Overall in the territory of Uganda more than 30 types of mineral natural resources have been detected including ferrous and non-ferrous metals, noble and rare earth metals, as well as radioactive metals, hydrocarbons, construction raw materials, phosphates and carbon-bearing raw materials, raw materials for glass and ceramics production. At least 75 deposits, 63 occurrences, and 57 mineralization spots were revealed in the country.

The known deposits include: copper, cobalt, gold, tin, bismuth, chrome, tungsten, tantalum, niobium, beryllium, and iron ore; as of the non-metallic deposits there are apatite, limestone, asparagus stone, salt rock, Sulphur and raw materials for cement production. Uranium and diamond occurrences have been also detected. Specular stone deposits are located in the North-Eastern and central part of the country.

Uganda possesses significant reserves of hydrocarbons such as oil (with confirmed reserves of 2.5 bln. barrels and explored reserves of 8 bln. barrels), oil gas, brown coal, peat.

All mineral natural resources belong to the government which issues licenses for prospecting, exploration and development to individuals and companies according with the Mining Act of 1964 (revised 2003).

GOLD

Gold occurrences are widespread in the territory of the Republic of Uganda. Deposits are mostly developed by local artisanal miners using obsolete techniques. Major gold ore and alluvial objects are located in the central and South-Eastern parts of the country in the Rwenzori greenstone belt as well as South-West part of Uganda.

The main regions of gold development are Busia (South-East), Buhweju and Kigezi (South-East), Mubende (Central part). Exploration and artisanal mining are carried out in Buganda area around Mubende and Singo (with Kamalenge and Kisita deposits) as well as in the Rwenzori greenstone belt next to Victoria lake (Tira mine in Busia). Recently exploration and artisanal mining started in Karamoja (North-East).

There are three areas of ore and alluvial gold mineralization in the South-Eastern part of Uganda where huge anomalies of gold detected by the secondary halos of dispersion and which are promising to contain huge ore bodies. Gold deposits in these areas are developed in small scale by artisanal miners.

Tira is the only gold deposit under development in the area of the greenstone belt of Busia in the territory of Uganda. The deposit has been inconsistently developed since 1930ties, information on the scale of the deposit as well as statistical data on development is missing. According to official sources, there have been 2 tons of gold extracted since the beginning of development, unofficial data stands for about 14 tons. The remaining deposits above 100-meter deep level are estimated by different sources to be 2.5 up to 4.5 tons. Overall 16 quartz veins were discovered within the deposit area. Inferred resources of the 1 square kilometer deposit area are estimated to exceed 26 tons. Quartz veins zones discovered in Tira deposit can be traced out of the area both in the North-Western and South-Eastern directions.

Copper and Cobalt

The biggest deposit of copper and cobalt of Kilembe is located in the Western region, in the Eastern part of Rwenzori mountain group. The deposit has copper sandstone nature. Tabular ore bodies are characterized by simple mineral composition (of pyrite and copper pyrite). According to surveys’ results known and probable deposits equal to 6.3 mil. tones of the ore running 1.99% copper, approximate value of cobalt in the ore equals to 0.18%. The deposit has been developed during 1965 and 1978 at production rate of more than 1 mil. tons of ore a year, which equals to about 15~20 thousand tons of copper.

At present time M2COBALT company works on Kilembe project, conducting exploration and extension of the deposit after the default of the Chinese Tibet Hima Mining Company which license for the mine was withdrawn in 2017.

Besides there are known cobalt deposits in Kasese area in the East of the country and Tororo area in the West.

Beryl

Uganda possesses huge deposits of beryl oxide and occupies the third place in the World after the US and China in the volume of the deposits. As far as proven reserves are concerned – Uganda is on the 4th place after the US, China and Brazil.

Previously Uganda used to be 2nd largest developer of beryl in Africa with the highest level of production in 1961 of 1030 tons after which production quickly dropped. All extracted beryl has been exported. The major areas of extraction used to be Kigezi and Ankole in the Western part of the country. In Kigezi beryl is connected to pegmatites enclosed into mica schists and banded gneisses. Pegmatite bodies usually spread more than 100 meters with average thickness of 13 meters. At present the ore is developed in small quantities by opencast mining.

Niobium, tantalum, zircon

Potentially huge reserves of niobium and zircon are located in the carbonatite deposits of Sukulu in the Eastern part of the country. Niobium pentoxide deposits at Sukulu account for 500~600 thousand tons with average value of 0.2~0.3%. Zircon dioxide deposits approximately equal to 1.3 million tons.

Kagano deposit is located in the South-Western part of the country. In 2005 a plan was set to establish a mining and processing facilities for rare earth metals’ concentrates (including tantalum oxide, niobium, beryl, tin, lithium). A 21-year mining license was issued for the 21 square km. area (which expires in 2026). The deposit type is deluvial placer which allows to conduct opencast mining. Industrial indicated and measured deposits of Ta2O5 equal to about 18 tons, inferred deposits – about 194 tons. Value of Ta2O5 is 0.0582%. Kagano area total projected resources of Ta2O5 stand for 16~18 tons.

In the Southern part of the Eastern region columbite and tantalite are mined in small quantities along with beryllium and cassiterite in quartz vein development. Those 0,5 to 1 meter thick quartz veins contain also tourmaline, cassiterite, beryllium, muscovy glass, bismuthinite beside columbite and tantalite. Development of the veins started before WW2.

Iron ores.

Current ore base for iron industry is quite limited and iron ore deposits are moderate in Uganda.

Iron ore deposits have been discovered long ago before Europeans came to the territory. Different small deposits have been developed in various parts of the country.

At present there are two known iron ore deposits – in Tororo and Kigezi. Kigezi has about 30 mil. tons of ore containing 63~68% of iron and Sukulu deposit in Tororo has about 20 mil. tons with a value of 62%. Iron ores are mines in moderate quantities.

Asperolites

There are known asperolite deposits in the Eastern region of the country, they are connected to sedentary and deluvial placers of carbonatite hills in Tororo, Sukulu, Bukusu, Busumbu and some other areas. At present these deposits are not in development. Tororo deposits volume is estimated at 230 mil. tons.

Previously Sukulu deposit was estimated as 130 mil. tons of asperolite with approximate volume of phosphorus pentoxide of 13.1%. Superphosphate plant with production capacity of 33 thousand tons per year used to be operating at the deposit for some time.

Proved deposits in Bukusu were estimated at 50 mil. tons, this deposit has been in operation in small scale from 1944 to 1962.

Tin and Tungsten

In Southwestern Uganda there are deposits of tin (Mwerasandu, Rwekinero, Kichwamba), tungsten (Kiasampowo) linked with pegmatite fields in Karagwe-Ankolean System. Deposits are randomly mined.

Currently the Republic of Uganda occupies a modest position among African nations in terms of reserves and the extraction of the main mineral commodities. This can be attributed to a low degree of geological research and exploration.

Regional prospecting works have recently been accomplished but they cover only few territories with both geochemical and geophysical methods of exploration. Only few territories have been explored with mineral prospecting works (including pits and trenches) as well as drilling.

At present iron, copper and cobalt (basically using old tailings), tungsten, tin, gold, beryllium oxide, pyrochlore and asperolite are developed in Uganda. Basically, mining is conducted in artisanal obsolete way. Besides some minerals are developed for inputs as construction raw materials, construction and cover stone, mineral salts.

Despite the fact that several minerals are important for exports, mining is performed in a small scale. For example, Uganda has the 4th largest reserves of beryllium in the World, but it’s barely developed. Gold is in the similar situation as industrial mining has not yet started in the discovered deposits.

At the same time results of recently accomplished regional exploration works witness huge geological potential of Ugandan lands both in quantities and in variety of the mineral resources.

National program for the mineral reserve base evaluation, supported by experts from the EU, SAR and the USA, resulted in a regional survey of Uganda’s territory complemented by airborne spectrometric survey with surficial validation of anomalies by geochemical methods.

Resent geological surveys and mineral reserves evaluation conducted within the frames of Sustainable Management of Mineral Resources Project (SMMRP) defined the following promising areas for various types of minerals to proceed with prospecting, exploration and mining.

  1. Iganga (gabbro-magmatic formations) – Ni, PGE (platinum group elements);
  2. West Nile Arua –- gold;
  3. Moroto, Karamoja areas - marble;
  4. South Eastern Uganda – diamonds (blue ground);
  5. Naigobya - Ni, PGE;
  6. Bukusu (alkali-carbonatite formation) - limestone, P, Fe, Ti, vermiculite, rare earth elements;
  7. Masindi Karuma Fallsarea - Ni, Cr, PGE, Fe;
  8. Kitaka-Buhweju – gold;
  9. Pakwach – white peat;
  10. Kaiso – porcelain clay, bentonite clays;
  11. Mayuge – iron ore;
  12. Kafunzo in Ntungamo area – Ni;
  13. Iganga in radioactivity anomalies of Makuutu – rare earth metals, uranium;
  14. Hoima – gold;
  15. Kaliro-Ivukula – gold;
  16. Aboke-Aloe within Aswa fault – gold