Uganda: Gold as a (Trans)National Treasure



Despite the potential of its known gold deposits, Uganda has no history of large-scale gold mining. Instead, the story of gold focuses largely on informal artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) and on the gold trade that extends through the region. Recent changing global trends in gold investment are stimulating the expansion of both refining and industrial extraction. Here we explore how these trends become articulated in the Ugandan context, with a focus on ASGM. Reflecting nationalistic discourse and new planning priorities, government today characterises gold as a “national treasure” and an engine for development transformation. To this end, and in line with initiatives promoted by multilateral agencies, it seeks to encourage the industrial sector coupled with the formalisation of small-scale gold mining. These formalisation dynamics are embedded within a context in which a semi-authoritarian regime privileges a (trans)national elite whose interests in gold extend into mining and into (trans)national trade and refining. Against this background, we echo a familiar story where emphasis is placed on investment in industrial mining and where institutional and regulatory capacity is weak, namely that formalisation privileges some gold miners while reinforcing inequalities, undermining potential for equity and discounting the value of the wider sector for people’s livelihoods.


Uganda Artisanal and small-scale gold mining Formalisation Inequality 



Three grants have permitted the authors to contribute to this chapter: (i) GCRF Network for Interdisciplinary Partnership on Mineral Sector Development, Social Equity and Inclusion in Africa (Ref: 100165); (ii) GOLD MATTERS (ref: 462.17.201) financed by the Belmont Forum and NORFACE Joint Research Programme on Transformations to Sustainability, which is co-funded by DLR/BMBF, ESRC, FAPESP, ISC, NWO, VR, and the European Commission through Horizon 2020; (iii) VLIR-UOS (ref: UG2018TEA477A101).


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Copyright information

© The Author(s) 2020

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.University of ReadingReadingUK
  2. 2.Mbarara University of Science and TechnologyMbararaUganda
  3. 3.University of LeidenLeidenThe Netherlands

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