Early Monday morning we drove as far east as we could to Busia district to visit three mining communities. The first was SAMA, which is Uganda’s only fairtrade gold mine (currently). This means that they no longer use child labour, have good health and safety, and equal op policies amongst other things.
It was also great to see the new kit installed, which means that they can get 95% of the gold from the ore, rather than the previous 45%. And the final piece of the kit will be installed in the next two weeks, which will also entirely eliminate the use of mercury in the process.
On Tuesday we visited the TISMA and Busia United which are two other mining communities also in the process of getting Fair Trade accreditation, and looking to partner with SAMA to make use of the new processing kit.
It was terrifying to see the prospectors for gold working beside these mines, and the risks that they take on a daily basis in the hope of getting gold.
To dig for Gold you need a licence these are normally given to the big boys, but Busia United got together with other local communties and got their licence by saying they would all withhold their votes, if no licence was granted. They got one!
The process is relatively simple. They dig up dirt/rocks/ore from deep holes (these vary in size, depending on the mine, and sometimes use some heavy machinery). They then use various methods to break it down so it’s fine, using water or iron balls. Then they run it through sieves and mats to catch the gold bits. Pan it and mix it with mercury to pull the gold together. They then burn off the mercury to be left with the gold. (With the new kit these last bits are done without mercury.)
With fair trade Gold, they also get a premium price for gold, and get a community premium for improving where they live. It’s been great to see and I’ve met some amazing people. I’ll post more about it when I’m home and have better internet connection, but I hope this gives you a flavour of what I’ve been up to.