Thursday, May 27th, 2021 | By
Artisanal small scale gold miners in Kassanda district have blamed their leaders for not enforcing occupational safety and health measures which puts their life at risk.
The artisanal miners said Kayonza-Kitumbi Miners Association (KKMA) leaders have not taken action on the artisanal miners who access the mining area without personal protective equipment like gloves and helmets and allow children to access the mines; which exposes them to health risks associated with direct use of mercury in extracting gold.
“We use mercury with little knowledge on its effects on our health. Why can’t the leaders be strict in ensuring that before anyone accesses the mines, they have to be having gloves and helmets,” wondered Sophina Nakate, a gold miner.
This was during the awareness raising workshop on the effects of mercury and other chemicals in Kasanda district that was conducted by National Association of Professional Environmentalists (NAPE) on 4th May, 2021 in Kayonza mines.
However, Musa Nduga, the KKMA’s site supervisor says their call of putting on protective gears to miners has fallen in deaf ears.
Dr. Medih Kyakonye, the Kasanda District Environmental Officer, said women in mines in Kasanda take children to the mines; breast feed children and carry pregnancies while touching mercury, which is very dangerous on their health and children’s growth.
He said; “As a student pursuing PHD in Environmental Chemistry, I have found through research that mercury affects the central nervous system and causes reproductive errors like Mongolism and Down syndrome on children. And the problem with mercury is that it does not reduce and it increases through generations.”
He explained that protection of consumers against dangerous chemicals starts with an individual by ensuring responsible consumption, self-regulation against dangerous chemicals and knowing their consumer rights.
Peruth Atukwatse, the Project Manager for Chemicals management and climate change at NAPE said miners should always be mindful of the future generation while using mercury and ensure they embrace mercury-free methodology.
NAPE will continue sensitizing people on sound chemical use and management and possible alternatives of mercury in gold mining.
The miners said they use mercury without knowing its adverse effects and hailed NAPE for continued sensitization and their efforts to introduce Borax method. They formed a Community Green Radio listeners club dubbed “Kayonza mercury-free listeners club” to increase awareness on the dangers of mercury among the miners using the radio.