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Gold mines contaminate water sources in Busia district

FILE PHOTO: Mining

Kampala, Uganda | THE INDEPENDENT | Artisanal gold mining in parts of Busia district has been blamed for the contamination of water sources in all sub-counties where the activity is taking place.

A number of wells have reportedly been contaminated by miners who draw water to clean extracted raw ore. The same wells are used by residents for domestic consumption. As a result, health experts have cautioned that the water from the sub-counties of Busitema, Buteba and Sikuda is unsafe for human consumption.

Artisanal miners often mix water with chemical elements like chlorine, bromine, fluorine and iodine to dissolve gold from gold ore. Now residents argue that this is exposing them to toxic bleaches, putting lives of neighbouring communities at risk. Many of the miners also use mercury in the process of extracting the ore.

However, medical research shows that although mercury is a naturally occurring element, it is highly toxic to humans, animals, and the environment when not handled properly. Inhalation of such chemicals damages the nervous, digestive, and immune systems. Pregnant women who are exposed to such chemicals are also susceptible to giving birth to babies with congenital diseases.

Norman Wegulo, a resident of Buchicha village in Sikuda sub-county has also accused the artisans and mining companies of exposing water sources to gold wastes.

Sikuda sub-county Peter Nasinyama says the crude mineral wastes that come out of the gold spill into water sources especially during the rainy season.

However, some artisans who were found washing gold fragments at Nakoola swamp said that they draw water from streams that are not often used for domestic consumption.

They added that after washing their products, the dirty water runs off and the streams maintain their colour.

Teopista Namajja, the acting Busia district environmental officer says they have carried out sensitization on misuse of water sources in vain.

Geoffrey Wandera, the Busia LCV chairman asked residents to embrace water harvesting during the rain than drinking the dirty water.

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