1.7 – Minerals and energy resources

Mineral resources

The Albertine graben has a number of economic mineral resources, although there is not much detailed and accurate information about the location and extent of the mineral deposits. In the northern part of the graben, deposits of lime and dolomite are known to exist. Further south, the Lakes George-Edward area has copper, exploited in the past at Kilembe mines in the Nyamwamba river valley near Kasese town. Although mining at the facility stopped in 1970s, there are still significant mineral reserves which could be exploited in future. Furthermore, the copper ore is richly associated with cobalt mineral that could increase the feasibility of mineral wealth exploitation in the area. Extractions of cobalt from copper tailings is currently going on at Kasese Cobalt Company Ltd located along the Kasese to Katunguru highway.

At Hima, Dura and Muhokya areas in Kasese District, limestone deposits exist and are currently being extracted for the manufacture of cement and lime. Gypsum has been mined for quite some time in the Kibuku area near Sempaya in Semliki, Bundibugyo District.

Gold has also been reported to exist in Maramagambo forest south of Lake Edward in Bushenyi District, while to the extreme south-west, deposits of iron-ore, gold and wolfram are known to exist especially in the escarpment region of Kabale, Kanungu and Rukungiri districts. An assessment of mineral resources in this area is ongoing and possibly more minerals such as tin, might be found when the assessment is completed.

Salt is the other mineral of socio-economic significance found in the graben . Salt mining has been undertaken for over half a century at Lake Katwe north of Lake Edward for many years, both for commercial and local purposes.  A second salt deposit at Kibiro near the shores of Lake Albert north of Kaiso-Tonya has also been exploited for a long time, mostly for domestic needs. Potential for export of the mineral also exists and in the past, attempts have been made to establish a complex salt factory at Lake Katwe although this  experienced  problems related to both industrial structuring and the complexity of the salt mineral constituents.

Existence of minerals has important implications to the dynamics of socio-economic activities in this area and possibly potential for their exploitation could be accelerated by the ongoing petroleum development activities in the region.

Energy resources – Energy Potential

Uganda has a rich renewable energy resource base. This includes solar, wind, hydro power, biomass and geothermal energy resources. The Albertine graben similarly has significant energy resource potential.  The area has considerable hydropower, geothermal, wind and solar energy resources. At Mubuku River near Kasese, hydropower is being generated by both Kilembe Mines Ltd and Kasese Cobalt Company Ltd. New mini hydropower sites have been initiated on rivers Wambabya in Kaiso-Tonya and on River Muzizi. Hydropower potential also exists on river Waki and at Murchison Falls on the Victoria Nile.

Potential for geothermal energy exists at several known sites in the region, although they have not been adequately explored. Potential sites include the hot springs at Katwe near Lake Edward, at Buranga in the Semliki flats in Bundibugyo District, Kibiro on the shores of Lake Albert and in the Virunga area in the extreme south-west . The total estimated potential from the 4 sites is 450 MW. The Katwe site is considered the most promising due to the presence of sub-surface steam at 230 ºC.  The site is also located only 35km from the 132Kv transmission line to Kasese, making it easy to inter-connect  to the national grid (NEMA, 2004/2005).

Solar energy use is also becoming more relevant especially given the limited connections to the national grid. Uganda straddles the equator and has a very good average insolation of  about 4-5kWh/m²/day. The costs of accessories involved are, however, still relatively high and unaffordable to the majority of the households in the region

Energy resources – Energy use

The majority of the population in the Albertine graben use wood fuel as the most dominant source of energy. Kerosene or paraffin is used for lighting and less than 3% of all households have access to electricity supply. However, firewood has become scarce and most people have resorted to using charcoal which is often imported from elsewhere and is very expensive. At the moment, most of the Rift Valley area is not connected to the national grid. Individual companies involved in oil exploration have therefore had to invest in generators.