Thursday, August 17, 2017

Uganda: Gold Mining in Mubende

The remote hilly areas of Mubende District, about 172 kilometres west of Kampala, Uganda are rich in gold. Nkwatirire migrated to the area about 45 years ago. Then, he said, there were only seven families sleeping in huts. In 2012 gold was found. "People started coming here purposely to mine gold. Children, girls, boys, women and men of all ages are here". Congested settlements built haphazardly characterize the region.
15-year-old Agaba fled his home and became one of the 15,000 children working in artisanal gold mining. He is one of the oldest children working at this mine – some are as young as eight. He spends up to 11 hours a day bending over makeshift gold pans, sluicing gold ore while standing ankle-deep in ponds of mercury and water.
He says on a good day he makes 10,000 shillings, about $2.50.
The rocky hills have been excavated by miners who have dug hundreds of underground tunnels in search of gold. Work in the mines goes on non-stop. Mining has degraded the environment in the area. The illegal miners have contaminated water sources with mercury and cyanide. Artisanal and small scale mining operations produces over 90% of the national mineral output and keeps about 200,000 Ugandans are employed.