Although residents of Lolung Village, in Rupa Sub-county, Moroto District continue to scramble for gold in the area, their struggle has not freed them from poverty.
Ms Marka Awocik, the woman representative for Lolung Small Scale Gold Mining Association, says gold in Rupa was discovered by children who were herding cattle.
“We all left our homes and that explains how we ended up at the mining site,” she says.
According to a new report released by Native TV and Travels and Stiffen Doen, a Dutch charity organisation on gold mining in the area, Karamoja residents continue to live in abject poverty despite the discovery of the precious mineral.
The report which was released in Kampala early this week shows that 98 per cent of Karamojong who mine gold in Amudat, Nakapiripirit and Moroto districts are still financially incapacitated as they exchange one gram of gold for a five litre jerrycan of waragi and other items.
It also notes that , the small scale miners are not registered by Uganda Registration Service Bureau (URSB) which leaves regulation of sales unmonitored as miners can easily trade on black market.
“These people are facing acute hunger. Many of them have resorted to feeding on Aloe vera because of lack of money and food yet they are dealing in one of the world’s most expensive minerals,” the report reads in part.
The sanitation at the mining site is also deplorable as miners trek more than 15kms in search of water.
There are no health centers or schools and the security in the area is not guaranteed which exposes the miners to Turkana warriors from neighboring Kenya, the report states.
“It is better to be here because at least there is gold rather than dying at home without anything,” said Ms Awocik told Daily Monitor.
She, however appealed to non-government organisations to support them grader so that they can excavate huge quantities of gold and improve their incomes.
Asked by Daily Monitor what they would do in case of eviction, Mr Micheal Mungol, the chairperson of the association, said they have formed groups and are in the process of completing process of registering with Uganda Registration Services Bureau.
According to Mr Mungol, they share the money among themselves after selling the gold.
He said they hope to improve standards of living although the money is still very little. Mr Andrew Napaja, the Moroto District chairperson, said they lack resources to help the miners but as a district they will ensure they are registered under URSB, empower them and create a better market for their gold.
“How can someone mining gold live in abject poverty and do batter trade by giving out a gram of gold for five litters of waragi?”he wondered.
The Uganda Human Rights Commission chairperson, Mr Meddi Kaggwa, promised to petition the Speaker of Parliament to intervene in the matter.
A source from Uganda National Chamber of Mines and Petroleum who spoke under anonymity said government last year organised a major Symposium in Moroto district aimed at finding solutions to help the miners but hasn’t yield any results yet.