By Titus Kakembo
KAMPALA - A recent airborne geophysical survey has revealed that Uganda possesses more than 260 million tons of iron ore, a mineral needed for the development of the steel industry.
Francis Natukunda, a senior geologist at the Department of Geological Survey and Mines said the survey discovered bigger deposits of iron ore than had previously been found during the colonial mappings.
"The sustainable management of mineral resources project also revealed potentially huge diamond deposits around areas of Lake Kyoga,” he said.
These revelations were made at a two-day South African trade and investment seminar at the Sheraton hotel in Kampala.
It was not known that Uganda had so much iron ore until the survey was carried out between 2007 and 2008.
Natukunda said: "Currently, we have over 200 million tonnes reserves of hematite iron ore in southwestern Uganda and 60 million tonnes of magnetite iron ore in the south eastern part of the country and still have huge potential for exploration."
Bodies similar to kimberlite – which normally harbors diamonds – were discovered and studies are ongoing to find out whether these are the precious diamonds found in South Africa, he added.
The seminar was jointly organized by the South African High Commission and the Uganda National Chamber of Commerce to increase the volume of trade and investment opportunities between the two countries.
Natukunda stressed that new discoveries like iron ore will this time not be exported as a raw material.
"This is because there is increased demand for steel in the construction industry. By the way, President Museveni issued a directive to the energy ministry in October 2012 not to allow any more iron ore exports.”
Feasibility studies to process Ugandan iron ore using methane gas from oil fields and imported coal to final products are under way.
Last year, President Museveni made a proposal to import coal from Mozambique to fire up iron ore furnaces, after Kenya and Tanzania put an embargo on exportation of their coal.
Speaking at the same function, State minister for investment Gabriel Ajedra Aridru said government intends to develop the iron ore resources in partnership with the private sector in a sustainable manner.
He added that government intends to have all holders of mineral rights in respect of iron ore start value addition to enable the country maximize the use of the iron ore deposits.
Soon, local demand for steel products will be influenced by the general aggregate demand for construction material in the East African region due to Uganda’s strategic location in the region.
“Uganda’s geographical position gives it access to over 500 million people, including COMESA and SADC and the recent population surge in the countries forming these regional blocks will trigger demand for construction materials from our industries,” said Aridru.
Over 260 million tonnes of iron ore discovered in Uganda