Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals, Stephen Masele
Deputy Minister for Energy and Minerals Stephen Masele has said zonal mining officers have been directed by ministry to help formalize all artisanal and small mining (ASM) activities so as to enable the operators to benefit from their works.
In a recent interview by this paper, Masele was quoted saying “…the government aims to help the ASM bring them to sound productivity…we have ordered all zonal mineral commissioners to work on the move…,” said the deputy.
To achieve this, the order to the commissioners is to register all the miners and then after the identification process, they are to form district and regional cooperatives which will in turn allow for loans, insurance coverage, housing allowances, child and health coverage as well as other social amenities.
Further, the government has pledged to provide modern explosive devices, technological assistance, marketing, training and extension services and price lobbying to increase productivity, efficiency and income.
Knowledge exchange between different groups of miners’ organisations is vital to generating lessons and sharing insights about organisational development, technology, business practices and livelihood challenges as well as the solutions, Masele reminded the miners.
“We are encouraging them as registered cooperatives to form Savings and Credit Cooperative Societies (SACCOS) which will allow them the acquisition of credit....”
While the government makes those arrangements, at the mining sites, poor technology has once again taken blame for low productivity and returns in the mining-quarry sector and in particular the Ikungu mines in Butiama district where the artisanal and small-scale miners (ASM) are reporting little to no improvement in their living standards.
Speaking exclusively to The Guardian, Sadick Seba an artisan miner at the Ikungu mines blamed the lack of automation at the mines saying that despite their labour intensive efforts, for higher productivity modern technology must be employed at the site.
“…down here most work is done manually, the only machine we have is an old boulder crasher (1.5 tonnes)…,” he explained. But after the boulders have been crashed then the miners are left to the hoes and shovels.
Worse, is the poor return after all the hard work, because as Seba explained, since they lack modern equipment they lose a lot to companies that do use modern technology, a good example being the mud that is left after cleaning the rocks when mining gold.
It is reported that while the small miners can’t detect gold grains in the mud, with modern equipment it is doable and they are losing potential income to other companies.
So while the small scale miners do all the exploration and extracting, they just acquire only 40 per cent of the produce.
Abel Peter another labourer at Ikungu mines complained of their poor living and working conditions underscoring lack of capital for modern tools that serve to bottleneck production.
“… I have been in the mines for 20 years …yet am still in the same condition I left my village…,” he lamented.
Peter who started working in mining since he was eight, appeals for government help in the form of loans for equipment.
The Ikungu mines are located on the Lake Victoria peninsula, some 18 km southwest of Musoma District in a small area isolated from the rest of Musoma. A greenstone belt and nine holes were drilled back in 1994 and at that time produced up to 185,000 ounces of gold.