4 February 2019

Uganda: Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners Abandon Mining in Namayingo - They Blame It On Depleted Gold Reserves

Artisanal miners in Namayingo district have abandoned gold mining sites due to diminishing gold deposits in the area. As a result, many remain unemployed as this activity was a source of income for majority residents in the district.

Mr. Mukose Ayub, a gold miner at Nakudi mining site in Banda Sub-County, Namayingo district explained that over the years, gold deposits have become very scarce, with a discovery rate of only about one gram of gold per day.

"Since 2014, we have been struggling. Today we get just about one gram after a day's long work which costs only Ushs100,000/=. This cannot cater for our needs and business expenses.'

He says some miners have resorted to recycling residues which were left behind by other miners while many have been rendered jobless. Majority have resorted to venturing into other businesses thus abandoning mining.

According to Muganza Emmanuel, the District Natural Resources Officer of Namayingo, gold mining in the district has been a major source of employment for most youth within this area but the drastic fall in the number of youths operating in this area is quite alarming.

"Namayingo district has for more than 15 years employed close to 120,000 artisanal miners in the various gold mining sites at Banda, Buyinja and Sigulu sub-counties being involved in digging, panning and gold trade. To-date, the number has suddenly reduced to a total of 200 artisanal miners by 2019." Muganza explained .

Budde mining site in Buyinja sub-county had a total of 200 artisanal miners but currently it has 35 artisanal miners, Buyanga mining site at Sigulu sub-county which had 200 artisanal miners currently has 40. Buheri mining site in Banda sub-county had over 100 but they are 50 while Nakuddi that had 6000 today has only 20 ASMs. Some of the gold sites have been fully vacated like Buchwanga mining site in Banda Sub-County

No machinery for support

This sudden reduction in the number of miners has partly been attributed to the lack of machinery to crash the hard rocks covering deeper gold deposits. Previously the artisanal miners operating in this area would use rudimentary tools like the hoe, shovel, spades and axes to extract the gold which was near the surface but this kind of method can no longer facilitate the miners to acquire the gold from the deeper earth.

Many former ASMs have ventured into other businesses like riding boda bodas while others lie idle. For this, Mr Muganza has called upon government to intervene by providing machinery to support the mining activities, lest there may be increase in the crime rates within the district due to many idle and unemployed youth.

Background

The sites mined in Uganda have differentiated ecologies raging from fragile aquatic areas to fertile agro-ecological zones and rocky areas and with the exception of Kisita, Kamalengera (all in Mubende), Tiira and Amonikakine mining sites (in Busia), where gold is being recovered from reefs (hard rock), most of the gold is recovered from alluvial material and potential agricultural fields. Particularly, the gold mined in Buhweju is located in small, high grade alluvial deposits around the Proterozoic basin and in the wetland ecosystems making it highly risky to environment and human health (NEMA, 2012).

Artisanal gold mining is one of the emerging informal economic activities providing alternative livelihood options to thousands of people in the world with close to 25 million artisanal miners and about 150 million people indirectly reliant on artisanal and small-scale mining.

This trade has experienced explosive growth worldwide in the recent years due to the rising value of mineral prices and the increasing difficulty of earning a living from agriculture and other rural activities. An estimated 40.5 million people were directly engaged in ASM in 2017, up to 30 million in 2014, 13 million in 1999 and 6 million in 1993.

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