Migori is one of the key mineral rich counties in Kenya where local residents engage in gold extraction as a source of livelihood despite the many dangers they are exposed to.
The county is rich in gold ore deposits which are largely found in the Nyatike Sub County with wide spread deposits in the sub counties of Rongo, Kuria and Suna West.
However, the majority of the gold mining activities is done by small and medium enterprises (SMEs) miners that have been exposed to unsafe practices in the mining extraction processes.
Those engaged in extracting the precious mineral have always defied government bans on mining especially during rainy seasons arguing that it is the only activity in the region that enables them put food on the table.
“This is the only place I eke a living from and anybody telling me to abandon this work is like telling me to give up my life and that of my family to starvation,” a miner rued in total defiance to restrictions on mining after four of their colleagues died in a mine pit at the famours Osiri Matanda goldmine in Nyatike constituency.
Unfortunately, the region has continued to lose at least two miners every year due to unsafe mining practices employed even as residents engage the government in cat and mouse games in the bottomless gold pits.
And, it is for this very reason of making the business safe for the population that Migori County in partnership with Impact Facility-NGO has embarked on a training session to train miners on safety measures and precautions during and after the extraction processes.
Migori County Mining Officer Joshua Boiwo says that the partnership training exercise will go a long way in reducing the rampant cases of deaths and injuries to the gold miners in the county
During one of such trainings in Macalder town this week, Mr. Boiwo noted that in the last six months the county had lost six people in various mining sites across the county with numerous unreported injury cases.
The county has so far lost 14 miners since 2018 while 12 cows also perished in Nyatike this year after drinking mercury-contaminated water that was washed away by floods from leeching sites.
Boiwo said that the safety training will go a long way in eradicating mining injuries and loss of life while at the same time empowering the community with proper knowledge and skills on the best, secure and safest ways of mining.
Impact Facility-NGO Occupational and Safety Expert Engineer Happison Muchangangi acknowledges that training will help the mining community curb and eradicate cases of injuries and deaths.
He said that the training will focus on occupational hazards that include environmental health and the destruction of the eco-system adding that the leeching process in gold extraction has been one of the major environmental health hazards that pose a huge threat to water bodies.
“Some of the materials used in gold extraction include mercury which finds its way to water points when floods occur,” explained the official during the training and added that mercury poses a threat to the already existing vegetation cover and agricultural based activities.
The official also urged the community to seek legal licences for explosives to help them establish suitable grounds for explosive usage.
“The ground support and stability is a key factor in determining mining sites. When the usage of explosives is used in mining sites the ground becomes unstable leading to caving in that may cause deaths”, noted Muchangangi.
In 2019 residents in Kanga village in Rongo Sub County called on the government to shut done mining activities after their houses began experiencing cracks. The cracks were blamed on heavy mining activities brought about by the usage of explosives.
Migori Mineral Miners Association Chairman Kephas Ojuka noted that the training will be cascaded to all miners across the county to ensure that they benefit from the programme. He emphasised the members of the association will fence off their leeching sites as a precautionary measure and safety to prevent loss of life to both humans and animals.
According to Migori County Commissioner Meru Mwangi all the multi-agency security strategies will be deployed in the mining sector to boost security and safety precautions.
The administrator said that the security team will ensure that all small, medium and large scale miners have proper regulations that include the acquisition of land and liable licenses.
“Through coordination of multi-agency security team we will ensure that the miners comply with the set regulations to minimise loss of life, injury and loss of our livestock”, Mr. Mwangi noted.
By Geoffrey Makokha and George Agimba