On Oct. 14, ten journalists visited the pozzolanic mines in Kabarole that are run solely by artisanal miners. This visit is among the several others the team will make in the Western region of the country ending on Oct. 17th to mark the completion of their six months training course in the extractives industry that begun this June.
Speaking to the team, thirty two year old Johnson Magezi, a resident of Harugongo Sub-county, Kabarole district says he is paying school fees for his five children through proceeds from mining Pozzolana. The mineral, cement-like, is sandy volcanic ash can be used in making concrete or in the manufacture of cement.
Fortunately, the mineral is about 3 to 10 metres in the ground and one is sure to find it, unlike other minerals that may need sophisticated equipment to establish presence of deposits.
“I start mining from 7am till 7pm,” Magezi said, “It takes me a week to extract pozzolana that can fill a lorry.”
The middlemen purchase a full lorry of pozzolana between Shs 120,000 to Sh 150,000. Each miner can extract between 50 to 100Kg days, which is about 700 to 1,000 kg by the end of the week to fill a lorry.
However Magezi and the miners who spoke to the team say they are exploited because these middlemen sell to Hima Cement factory in tonnes. They claim the middle men sell a full lorry at Shs 700,000, which is over Shs 500,000 in profit. The team did not however verify this information or amount of Pozzolana that can fill a lorry as the miners lack measuring scales to determine weights of what they extract daily. They are paid the same amount for both small and big pieces of pozzolana, as long as the mounts can fill up the lorry.
Apart from poor pay, the miners also decry poor government regulation and poor service delivery. The sub-county has only one primary school. It has neither a secondary school nor health facility.
“How can we not have these facilities yet we have a very important mineral for cement making?” another miner said.
The miners are also concerned about impending health complications resulting from prolonged mining such as chronic chest pain and back ache.
Field Francis Wako, forty five years old has mined for over 20 years while Magezi has been in the trade for 12 years. The latter says he will quit after five years, unlike Wako who says he is still strong and energetic enough to mine. They are both urging Hima Cement and the government to consider visiting the local community to improve on their quality of life, since all one will see from house to house are mounts of pozzolana, of which most is still underground.
Hima Cement uses the pozzolana to make Portland cement.