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“Uganda needs to stop importing iron ore”, he said, noting Uganda’s plentiful untapped iron ore reserves.
A shortage of the raw material in Uganda has affected the quality and quantity of steel products in the country, the minister added.
Uganda’s steel industry imports iron ore from Kenya and Tanzania because its iron ore reserves are as yet not fully exploited.
Companies that have expressed interest in exploring Uganda’s iron ore so far include the Alam Group of Companies and Uganda Roofings, but the Ugandan government has expressed interest in hearing from other bidders.
Steel Rolling Mills, owned by Alam, installed a $50 million rolling mill in the Jinja region of Uganda earlier this year.
Reserves at Kabale, the main iron ore region, are estimated to be more than 50 million tonnes.
Alam is in need of larger tonnages of iron ore to feed its plant and reduce the country’s reliance on steel imports according to Shaik Mohad, manager at Steel Rolling Mills.
Since production started, Alam has produced 24,000 tonnes of high-quality steel coil, saving Uganda the equivalent of $18 million per year on steel imports.
Companies involved in Uganda’s iron ore industry include the Madhavani Group, the East African Steel Corporation Group, Alam, Uganda Roofings and Uganda Baati.
The Ugandan government is to license the exploration of iron ore in 2013 in a bid to boost its mining sector, the minister of energy and minerals, Simon D’Ujanga, told Steel First.