Busia miners use deadly chemical to extract gold

Monday January 06 2020
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Risky. Miners sort gold from ore at a cyanide plant in Tiira Village, Busia District, last year. PHOTO BY DAVID AWORI

A section of gold miners in Busia District are using cyanide, a deadly chemical, to extract gold despite warnings from health and environment experts.
Previously, the artisanal miners had been using mercury to obtain the gold but of late, they have resorted to cyanide, which they say is more effective in the extraction of gold from ore.
However, health experts say cyanide contains carbon nitrogen and causes acute conditions among human beings due to its toxic nature.

They say if the chemical is exposed to human beings, it attaches itself to the oxygen receptors in the blood and lungs, which may lead to sudden death.
Investigations by Daily Monitor found out that more than six cyanide plants have been established in Tiira, Syanyonja and Omanye villages in Busia.
Dr Victoria Mukasa from the Uganda National Association of Community Health (UNACOH) said miners should desist from using cyanide, saying it is dangerous to humans.
Dr Mukasa said exposure to cyanide presents signs of headaches, dizziness, fast heart rate, vomiting, shortness of breath, which later progress to seizures, low blood pressure, loss of consciousness and cardiac arrest.

“The biggest risks involve ingestion, inhaling or swallowing of cyanide, which blocks the body from receiving oxygen, which can eventually cause death of the infected person,” she said.
Mr Geoffrey Kamese, an environmentalist, said cyanide chemical is highly toxic and needs very restricted use.
However, Mr Hassan Odima, a miner, said they have employed technical people to limit the impact of the chemical on their lives. “We are making sure that cyanide moves through pipes and tanks without leaking to the atmosphere,” he said.
Mr Odima said they had acquired antidotes for the plants to mitigate challenges of exposure in case anything happens. Mr Anthony Egessa, the chief administrative officer, said they will pass a resolution stopping the use of cyanide.