Minister’s Remarks Create More Uncertainty Over Kilembe Copper Mines

Godfrey Kabbyanga, State Minister, ICT and National Guidance

Indecision continues to shroud the future of Kilembe Mines, nearly 10 months after a shortlist of the preferred bidders for the copper mines in Kasese, Western Uganda, was released.

Appearing on NBS TV on May 15, 2023, Godfrey Kabbyanga, the Minister of State for ICT and National Guidance said that President Yoweri Museveni had informed a cabinet meeting that “very serious investors” had met him and expressed their interest in taking over the Kilembe project.

“They are Chinese and he thinks their negotiations should be fast-tracked. So, I am very optimistic that negotiations will move faster so that we can conclude the deal and then mining resumes because when the mine was fully operational, it was employing 5,000 people,” Kabbyanga said.

The many skilled but unemployed youths in the region would find jobs with the mine once it resumed operations, he had added.

The Chinese firm that approached the President is said to be state owned and, therefore, had more financial and technical resources at hand, our sources said.

Kabbyanga’s remarks have however left the seven companies that emerged as the best evaluated bidders last year worried about their fate.

The firms – China Railway No. 10, Gingko Energy, Liaoning Hongda (trading as Wagagai Mining), Sinomine Power China, Mota-Engil Uganda, Jervois Global and Sarrai Group – have been waiting for government to issue the Request for Proposal (RFP) since they were first shortlisted in August, 2022.

In March this year, Ruth Nankabirwa, the Minister of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), dismissed concerns that the Kilembe concession had been arbitrarily awarded without following due process.

She also told this website that the Divestiture and Reform Implementation Committee (DRIC) was still reviewing the RFP.

Ruth Nankabirwa, Energy and Mineral Development, Minister

We now understand that the RFP has since been approved and is awaiting the Attorney General’s clearance before it is issued out to the qualified bidders; probably by mid-June, 2023.

“The MEMD continues to work with the Ministry of Finance to advance the tender process for an investor for Kilembe Mines. The Request for Proposal (RFP) documents are being finalized, including the Model Production Sharing Agreement (MPSA) that will be issued to the shortlisted companies soon,” said a source, who preferred anonymity because they aren’t authorized to speak on behalf of government.

However, a representative from one of the shortlisted companies remains pessimistic.

“It appears due process will not be followed. To avoid lawsuits, they are likely to go through the RFP process even if they’ve already decided who to award the Kilembe concession. We are still hoping for the best, though,” the source said, also preferring to remain anonymous.

Incorporated in 1950, Kilembe Mines Limited (KML) is jointly owned by the Government of Uganda (99.99%) and the estate of the late Rukiidi III, the Omukama of Tooro Kingdom (0.005%).

In the 1960s, the minerals’ industry, led by KML, contributed about 30% to Uganda’s gross domestic product (GDP).


If indeed a concession for the Kilembe Mines is handed to an investor, it will not be the first time that President Museveni is awarding contracts outside government procurement guidelines. Contracts for the construction of roads and energy plants have been handed out in a similar way before.

Chinese firms have been preferred partners of the state over the last 10 years due to the easier access to credit.

Kilembe is not new to Chinese investors. In 2013, Uganda’s government awarded Tibet-Hima, a Chinese consortium, a 25-year concession to revamp the mines. However, in 2017, government terminated the concession saying the firm had failed to fulfill most of its contractual obligations.

Jessica Alupo (C), the Vice President and Peter Lokeris, the State Minister for Minerals are led on a tour of Kilembe Mines’ dilapidated structures by Fred Kyakonye (L) the firm’s General Manager, in October 2021

Over the last 15 years, China has sought to secure – from across the world – the natural resources and raw materials needed to sustain its rapid economic growth in its manufacturing and industrial sectors. Chinese companies already have a sizeable footprint in gold, iron ore, phosphates, marble and oil and gas in Uganda.

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