August 4—An increasing influx of people searching for gold, about 135 kilometres north west of Kampala in Mubende district, has prompted the government to announce a registration exercise of all artisanal miners to bring some order to the situation and limit insecurity.
“These people do not only use rudimentary methods such as hoes, spades and basins to pan and extract gold, but some of them undertake highly mechanized mining operations such as using bulldozers to excavate the ore; use sophisticated machines to crush and grind the ore; and also use mercury and cyanide in the processing of gold,” Dr Stephen Isabalija, the Permanent Secretary in the energy and mineral development ministry said in a statement.
The gold rush has even attracted nationalities from neighbouring countries to what the government considers to be illegal mining in the areas of Kitumbi and Bukuya sub-counties in Mubende district. Uganda is not a major gold producer, but has become a popular transit country and last year officially exported nearly $350 million worth of the precious metal, most of it heading to Dubai.
Dr. Isabalija said the miners’ activities have caused widespread environmental degradation which is affecting the health and safety of people in the vicinity of their digs. “In addition, the presence of foreigners in these areas can result into a security threat to the people of the area and the country at large,” he said.
Ministry officials will register miners and organize them into groups which will be easier to monitor. The exercise is expected to take three months and will subsequently help in re-organizing mining activities in Mubende area and the country as a whole. In support will be contingents from Uganda Police, Uganda Peoples’ Defense Forces, Directorate of Citizenship and Immigration Control under the Ministry of Internal Affairs.