Mad rush for gold in Namayingo

Hundreds of people search for gold in one of the mines in Nakudi village, Banda Sub-county, Namayingo District last week. Village officials said more than 20,000 people descended on the village after news of the discovery of the precious mineral spread like wildfire. PHOTO BY DAVID AWORI

What you need to know:

Booming. A few weeks after discovering gold in the area, residents have abandoned any other economic activity and turned to mining the precious mineral.

NAMAYINGO. About three weeks ago in Nakudi village, Banda Sub-county, Namayingo District, mourners dug a grave to bury their loved one. However, they came across rocks they believed to be gold in the grave. They closed it and dug another one, several kilometres away but they discovered traces of the precious mineral there too.
“Some people who came to dig the grave were gold miners from Tiira gold mining area in Sikuda, Busia District. They told us our area had huge gold deposits lying on the surface,” Stephen Wandera, the chairman of Nakudi mining area, told Daily Monitor last week.
He said after that day, [January 16], news of the gold discovery spread like wildfire, and soon the fortunes of the little unknown village of Nakudi changed from being an area known for small-scale farming and fishing, to a mining area.

Change in fortunes
Stephen Onyango, a resident, says for long, the village, characterised by limited social services, especially roads and water, small population, with the majority being farmers, has since changed as the gold deposits have attracted several people.
“We have more than 20,000 people converged in this village to get quick money out of gold mining. Some have come from far districts such as Mubende, Wakiso, Mbale, Iganga, Bugiri, Jinja and Busia. Some have even come from as far as Kenya to seek a fortune,” he reveals.
Mukuye Bwemweyana, a resident of Mubende-Kasanda, said when they heard the news of gold in Namayingo, they left the mines in Mubende and rushed to Nakudi.
“This area is blessed with a lot of gold. Before you even excavate, you come across rocks with gold,” he said.

The golden village
The Namayingo District chairperson, Mr Waiswa Obondo, said the district was endowed with huge deposits of gold. “Reports of the geological survey by the Ministry of Lands and Mineral Resources indicated that 80 per cent of the land in the district is endowed with gold and we believe this is a blessing to our people and the district. We have gold mining not only in Nakudi but also in Budde in Buyinja Sub-county, which is providing employment for our people.”
Just to show how serious the business is, more than 200 gold buyers, some from far as Kampala, have come to the area to buy gold from the miners.
“There is a lot of gold here. I usually spend two days buying and the third day I leave for Kampala where we have ready market for the gold,” a buyer, who declined to reveal his identity, said.
A tale is told of a 10-year-old whose father gave him Shs30,000 to buy one basin of rocks, and on processing them, the youngster got gold worth Shs3 million.

Not all that glitters…

However, not everyone has a success story. Unlike other miners and dealers, Justin Gusino, a resident of Buswale Sub-county, has a sad tale about the business.
“I used Shs100,000 to buy two basins of rocks which they told me had gold but after processing them, I could not get any gold. I wonder whether gold mining has some superstitions involved,” he said.
Some locals believe that if you have sex with a woman a day before going to the mines, then you will not find any gold.
“We are avoiding the many women who are here for the sake of getting money,” one miner said.
Though this superstition cannot be verified, leaders believe it will help in reducing cases of prostitution and sexually related diseases, especially HIV/Aids.
Stephen Mayende, a teacher who has hired a 6 x 6 feet piece of land to mine gold, said two weeks ago, he used to pay Shs700,000 for the land but the price has now risen to about Shs2m. He blames the increasing prices on the fact that more people are taking interest in the land.
Also, as people rush to make quick money, the hygiene standards at Nakudi mining area have deteriorated. There are no latrines to serve the many miners and as a result, open defecation is the order of the day. They also have no access to clean water, and rely on the contaminated lake water [Lake Victoria].
“Gold mining is causing pollution of the lake, the miners are using mercury to purify gold and leaving it to drain into Lake Victoria. This is polluting the water, posing a danger to the fish and the people who consume the water,” Mr Alex Busagwa, the Namayingo district environment officer, said.
He also said some of the gold processing activities are done close to the gardens and may therefore contaminate the crops, putting the people who consume the crops at risks.
Mr Busagwa also warned of impending food insecurity in the area, citing cases where all families have abandoned farming and resorted to gold mining.