Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining in Syanyonja, Busia Gold District, South Eastern Uganda: Impacts on the Mining Population and the Environment
journal contributionposted on 16.02.2020, 05:09 by Timothy Omara, Shakilah Karungi, Stephen Ssebulime, Kibet Mohamed Kiplagat, Ocident Bongomin, Remish Ogwang, Solomon Akaganyira
Aims: To determine the amount of mercury discharged into Namukombe stream, the major water body in Syanyonja village, Busia gold district and investigate the impacts of mercury-based artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) on the mining population and the environment.
Study Design: Quantitation of mercury discharged with tailings was done by mass balance method. Field survey at the mining sites was done followed by administration of questionnaires to 50 stampeders in the village.
Place and Duration of Study: The study was done in Syanyonja village in Syanyonja parish, Busitema subcounty, Samia Bugwe constituency, Busia gold district, South East of the Republic of Uganda between April 2019 to June 2019.
Methodology: Fieldwork was done in Syanyonja village to appreciate the level of environmental pollution due to mercurial ASGM in the area. Quantitation of mercury discharged with tailings was done by mass balance method. Field survey at the mining sites was done followed by administration of 50 questionnaires to stampeders of at least 18 years old and ASGM experience of not less one year.
Results: About 8% of mercury mixed with auriferous materials is lost in tailings, accounting for an annual mercury release of about 1.757 kg into the environment. Socio-demographic results indicated that the majority of the mining population (64%) are male and ASGM have left human
health and environmental footprints, which directly or indirectly affects the population. The most common health problems among miners are malaria (36%) and abdominal pain (20%). The standard of living of the miners are evidently low, and most mines are characterized by school
dropouts, prostitutes and thieves. Mining sites have deplorably poor hygiene, with evident burning of amalgams to recover gold.
Conclusion: ASGM have been accompanied by wanton mowing down of vegetation, land
degradation as well as mercuric pollution of water, air, land and aquatic ecosystems. It is
suggested that the Ugandan government should re-enforce committees to follow up on ASGM
activities and train artisans on sustainable (non-mercury) alternative gold extraction methods that
do not create new toxic exposures such as using borax, magnets and sluice boxes. Artisans
should take up farming actively as an alternative.