By Kigezi News reporter
Miners have called on government to withdraw the mining license from Zanak Holdings over compromising safety standards that is responsible for the many deaths miners are grappling with, Ipolito Kinyatta says.
“The only solution we can have to this is withdrawing mining lease from Zanack holdings. They have refused to follow the minimum standards of mining, they have failed to sign a memorandum of understanding with miners and whoever asks for anything is dismissed from the mines. The challenge has been lack of organization in the miners themselves, the ministry of mineral development need to help us.” Mr Kinyatta says.
Sabastian Musimenta, the coordinator small scale and artisanal miners for ministry of energy and mineral development in Ntungamo Sebastian Musimenta has decried the high level of fatalities of artisan miners in the tin mines of Ntungamo.
At least 15 artisan miners have been killed in falls in the Rwamwire tin mines in Ruhaama County Ntungamo district in a two years period because of the tunnels collapsing on them.
This Musimenta attributes it to poor safety standards in the mines and the ageing mines that were established as far back as 1902. Local leaders have been calling for government to withdraw mining leases from the companies that are running them to no avail.
According to the miners, 6 of the persons that have died in the mines were permanently buried underground as efforts to retrieve their bodies proved futile. 2 of the dead were juveniles aged 15 and 17 years.
“There have been various causalities sin the mines in the last two years and it was was because of laxity of the company operating the mines and failure to cooperate with the small scale and artisana miners working in the mining field. But since we started working with them in about two months, the casualties have become limited however the company is still adamant on signing a memorandum of understanding on safety with the miners.” Mr Musimenta says.
Despite the high rate of death in the mines and harassment meted on the artisans by Zanock Holdings and police, miners keep on working because of the earnings they get from the sale of the tin ore
Before the closure of the Rwandan border mineral ore prices reduced from UShs 28000 per kg in April 2019 to Shs 8000 currently
This has become an issue that has caused a rift between the miners and the mining company that has led to the deployment of police officers to prevent the artisan miners from selling minerals to other dealers in the area who offer at least two times the price the company offers to the miners.
Ms Salima Nalongo, a woman whose 17 year old son Latib Nasasira was buried in the mines and the body was not retrieved notes that the mining company has failed to protect the miners and the managers are arrogant that they do not think about their workers. She was only offered Shs 1 million as compensation for her son which is peanuts, she notes
“I lost my son, I did not burry him even, they told me that he was on his own yet we all know he was working for the company, he was almost the bread winner of our home, they gave us a million shillings and made the burial arrangements other things nothing.” Ms Salima says.
The manager Zanack Holding Mr Moses Sserunjogi recently acknowledged the increased accidents in the mines however saying they have been managing the accidents locally without involving police and other authorities.
“Like any other mines,, we get accidents, but its normally because some miners do not take clear precautions. We do everything necessary to protect them. We provide the miners with timer to break the falling rocks, we give them protective gear but most of them do not use it effectively. However when accidents occur we normally resolve them within ourselves and find solutions that would not melt the pot we cook in, he said.
There are 820 artisan and small scale miners operating in the Rwamwire tin mines which has been in existence since 1912. The miners mainly mine from an old mine in old tunnels where they often dig through wasted soils to have residues of tin left during the past mines. At times they dig through weak rocks or dumped soils not yet interlocked that fall burying them.