The artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector in Buhweju district, has started the process of stopping the use of mercury chemical to extract and amalgamate gold.
The development comes after realizing that the use of mercury has since 2018 been exposing miners and surrounding communities to health related risks after mercury was introduced by miners that came in from Mubende district.
The move is aimed at protecting miners’ health and the environment in general Mr Deusdedit Beinomugisha, the spokesperson of artisanal and small scale miners in Buhweju district.
The mining sector directly and indirectly benefits over 50,000 people in Buhweju district. More than half of the mining community members could be affected by mercury already.
He said that the process is going to begin with a training for district leaders, health workers, teachers and people involved in the artisanal mining sector on the dangers of using mercury in mining.
“We want to go mercury free. By the end of the training, our communities will be knowing the dangers associated with use of mercury and we shall not allow anyone to use it in our mines.” Mr. Beinomugisha argued
Powered by Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) under the ‘FREE MY MINE’ project, the training will run from 21st-31st July, 2020. The main objective of the training is to equip the communities and leaders with knowledge about the dangers associated with the use of mercury in mining, Mr. Geoffrey Kamese, the project director told Countryside Reports.
“We want people to stop using mercury. Mercury is a toxic chemical or neurological toxicant, a harmful chemical that is governed by the Minamata convention, which restricts the use of mercury in any kind of environment. Mercury affects the nervous system and development of the brain of a child. The future generation might be poisoned by mercury and in the long run we are likely to have a lot of stupid people. The earlier we fight against mercury, the better.” Mr Kamese explained
The Minamata Convention on Mercury, to which Uganda is a signatory, is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. Uganda has already developed a national implementation plan. What UNACOH is doing enhances the implementation of the national action plan according to Mr Kamese
World Health Organization says “mercury exposure in artisanal mining communities is associated with adverse health effects including kidney dysfunction, autoimmune dysfunction, and neurological symptoms.”
Artisanal miners in Buhweju gold mines, have been risking their lives without even realizing it for over two years.
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining is a major source of income for many families in the sub counties of Bitsya, Nyakishana, Bihanga, Rwengwe.
According to The Global Environment Facility (GEF),”about 15 million of small artisanal miners around the world risk their lives every day, not just because they work in dangerous conditions, but also because they are constantly exposed to toxic chemicals.”