A Canadian company is working on a strategic plan that will see Uganda use uranium to generate electricity after getting a go-ahead from President Museveni.“IBI is proposing a nuclear energy strategy for electrical power development in Uganda utilising the country’s potential uranium resources,” announced the company in a press statement last week.
The statement notes that IBI’s uranium development strategy for Uganda seeks to benefit the public through the development of a national nuclear electrical power generation programme.
Nuclear energy is a controversial source of electricity as uranium can also be used to produce nuclear weapons. The Western world is currently watching two countries – Iran and North Korea – which are feared to be enriching uranium, euphemism for developing nuclear weapons.
President Museveni has said before that Uganda would use its extensive uranium deposits to produce nuclear energy for peaceful purposes. Still, the International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) is likely to seek guarantees that this is indeed the case.
Uranium is a silvery-gray metallic chemical element that is commercially extracted from minerals such as uraninite through open cast mining. Uranium can be used in the making of atomic bombs, nuclear reactors and as fuel for nuclear power plants.
IBI has already started exploring uranium in Uganda.
According to figures provided by the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development, there are about 18,000 square kilometres of uranium in Buganda and Tooro regions; 12,000 square kilometres in Karagwe-Ankole area, 5,000 between Lake Albert and Lake Kyoga, another 5,000 around Lake Edward, and 12,000 square kilometres in Lake Albert.
To position itself for the new business venture, IBI has sold off some of its vermiculite mines in Mbale district to Rio Tinto for $5 million.
Mining uranium is lucrative business because the mineral’s prices are expected to remain reasonably high as demand for energy shoots up, amid the current global economic recession.
In adopting a nuclear strategy for Uganda, IBI is seeking to strengthen its ties with the government before other competitors can enter the fray.
According to their statement, “the strategy proposes that IBI and Government of Uganda form a private sector/public sector partnership under which IBI would explore for and develop IBI lands with potential viable uranium resources.”
IBI holds about 2,000 square kilometres of lands in Uganda, which it uses to explore for more minerals.
Gary Fitchett, the IBI’s chief, recently had a meeting with President Museveni in which the strategic plan was discussed. Before that, another meeting to prepare for the sketching of the paper had been held in Canada.
The speed with which the President has moved to engage an investor to mine uranium with no policy in place is being questioned.
Jimmy Akena, a legislator who sits on the natural resources committee of Parliament, said that the rush to exploit uranium even without a clear policy means that there will be nobody to scrutinise the terms of the agreement.
“You see, right now Parliament has not even seen the Atomic Energy Bill yet some of these deals are busy going on. In this country we do things in reverse—that back to back policy—of government. They start with the deal and deal with the policy later. And in this case, Parliament will not be in a position to question the dirt involved in this deal if there’s no law to use,” he said. Without a policy, Akena said, it will be difficult to share the revenue from the exploration.
A source in the Ministry of Energy said that Uganda right now lacks the skilled man power needed to measure the viability of uranium production in the country.