On Friday, December 9, 2022 at around 5pm, grief engulfed residents of Bihanga Sub County Buhweju District western Uganda and other people miles away from the dark gold mines. The sad news became another red flag.
Four gold miners;Mathias Saturday (28), James Nuwagaba (25), Baturaine Anatori (25) all hailing form Buhweju District and Venansio Mbaga (20) from Ibanda District died instantly after a gold mine caved in.
MINING IN THE DARK HOURS, AND ENFORCEMENT GAPS: In several interviews with the locals and authorities, RISE NEWS UGANDA’s Aaron Ainomugisha confirmed that there’s escalating tension, and locals expect more similar incidents because many gold miners in the area operate during dark hours to avoid being arrested.
Following these reports and the sad incident, security authorities in Buhweju district have started a crackdown on illegal miners. The area Resident District Commissioner (RDC) Nicholas Nuwagira confirmes that even the deceased were illegal artisanal miners.
According to the deputy RDC Godfrey Tumwebaze, they are going to intensify operations and eliminate illegal miners.
“These are local artisanal miners who mine gold under unclear circumstances. We have warned them to get out of the mines during the rains and they have not complied. Buhweju has been receiving large amounts of rainfall which make the soils loose with possibility for accidents. We are going to arrest whoever is in the mines without a mining license,” he said.
The mineral protection police and other responsible departments that are instrumental in enforcing the law and stopping illegal mining activities are overstretched, and this greatly hinders the crackdown on illegal miners.
“This is because almost the whole district is a mining area and the police cannot cover the whole area. This means we should get more policemen to man the mines. These people died in the evening because they want to go when no one is seeing them,” he added.
He also disclosed that security officials have already talked to the district and regional police commanders to mobilize more personnel to regulate miners. They are even going to move in at night to arrest whoever is mining in the dark hours because it is very dangerous and that’s why people are dying and we shall not sit and watch as people lose lives.
Corruption, lack of enough resources like funding or budget, human resources and other challenges are evidently weakening the mining sector in Uganda which hinders enforcement.
Gold in the Buhweju-Mashonga goldfields was first discovered in 1933 where after mining began, in 1934. This was interrupted by the Second World War and subsequent independence of the Republic of Uganda in 1962, and the rich deposits of the area remained under-explored and largely untapped.
In Uganda, estimates show that at least more than 20 people die annually in mining disasters although they’re not very rampant.