BusinessPeople Daily

Risky gold rush in western Kenya

Musa Radoli @PeopleDailyKe

They are a relentless addicted dare devils. At the crack of dawn they are already out of their beds and at the gold fields. Ready to disappear deep into the bowels of the earth to start the daily gruesome task in search of the precious metal.

The hardy lot of gold miners know that the task ahead is not just risky, but extremely dangerous. The allure and attraction for hunting this precious metal is more powerful than the deadly dangers involved in the entire process.

Once it was a preserve for men with women only coming to cash in by selling food, but over the years with mounting economic pressures that is no longer the case as more women joining in the search.

This is the story of the country’s gold mining fields in Kakamega, Vihiga, Migori, Homa Bay and pockets of neighbouring counties. It has been going on for decades with generations trapped into the same vicious and deadly circle hunting for the elusive precious mineral.

The biggest irony of the whole equation is that virtually no one involved in this exercise has ever become a business tycoon. Indeed thousands have nothing to show for it, except for the equally gruelling and endless poverty which has gripped families in a deadly vicious circle generation after generation.

Most of the gold mine fields are crude contraptions and excavations deep into the bowels of the earth. The miners dig wide round vertical holes or pits into the ground.

Once underground, they dig out horizontally veering off in many directions. The distances are limitless and hence the ever present dangers of the unsupported walls of the tunnels collapsing and trapping those inside with deadly consequences.

There are no protective wear and even crude safety measures leave alone first aid kits. Kakamega County Governor Wycliffe Oparanya acknowledges the dangers involved in the crude mining methods, but says county governments are working with miners to eradicate these dangers through advanced methods of mining.

He says the biggest break for the county government came in February last year when Acacia Mining, a British prospecting firm, discovered the country’s largest ever gold deposit.

The company said it had discovered an estimated resource of 1.31 million ounces of high-grade gold at its mines in the Liranda Corridor in Kakamega estimated at Sh171 billion and whose grade, Acacia added, is one of the highest in Africa. (Gold is usually measured in ounces).

The discovery of high-grade gold has revived dreams of a better life among villagers, decades after collapse of gold mining in the region with residents hoping to be the biggest beneficiaries of the mines.

In the former Nyanza province investigations by the People Daily established that the story is no different from what is happening in the gold fields of the neighbouring former Western province with the most affected county being Migori.

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