Children as Young as Ten Facing Exploitation in Uganda’s Artisanal Gold Mines

November 27, 2013 10:21 am0 comments by:

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Kampala-Children as young as ten years are being employed to work in artisanal goldmines in the remote north eastern Karamoja, region of Uganda.
The children are being employed by former cattle rustlers who have turned to gold mining after lossing their livelihood to the Uganda Government led disarmament excercise.
The former rustlers who lost their livelihood of raiding cattle from the neighbroing communites after the disarmament excercise turned to gold ming as an alternative source of income.
They have however found cheap labor in underage children whom they employ to work for them at a very low wage.
At Acerer mining site, located some twenty kilometers north west of Nakapiripirit town hundreds of children, some with barely anything to cover their bodies can be seen digging through the ground in search of gold.
The children perform activities ranging from digging through the ground with rudimentary tools, washing the mineral to collecting water.
None of the children who toil in this gold mining site wears protective gear during the course of work.
10-year-old Loyeng Bubari, is one of the children who work in the mine.
For Loyeng a former primary one pupil of Osikei Primary School, his journey to the mining site began one year ago shortly after lossing both his parents to inter tribal clashes.
“I came here a year ago to work after my parents were killed by armed people and since then i have remained to work here. The money i get from here helps me to buy food for my seven year old brother who is back home in Nabilatuk” explains 10-year-old Loyeng.
Life in the mine
“My day begins at 6:00am when i start running from Acerer trading center where i stay to here. I always reach here by 8am and straight away begin my work of either fetching water to bring here or help my friend to dig the soil till 6: 00pm when we return” Loyeng says for all the work he does he earns between 50-60,000 shillings (approximately U$23) a month.
Challenges
“The biggest challenges that we face here comes from the armed thugs who often raid here to grab gold from us. They order us to lie down and they beat you up until you give them the gold that you have collected for the day’s work ” 10-year-old Loyeng says in some circumstances the thugs shoot and kill citing a case of ten people he has witnessed being shot dead in the mine.
He says another challenge they face as children is with fetching water from a stream that is more than two kilometers away.
His future
“If i could get a Good Samaritan who can pay my fees and that of my seven year-old brother in a boarding school i would leave this work because i want to go to school but how will i and my young brother survive?” he asks with a voice of a person who has resigned to fate.
Another child Hussein Longok, a former pupil of Namalu Mix Primary School says he was sent to work in the mine by the parents.
“After my Primary Leaving exams, my parents told me to come and work here in order to raise school fees for my secondary education and i have so far worked here for two months” Longok says he has managed to raise 70,000 (approximately US$25) in the two months he has worked in the mine.
Like his friend, Longok also says the biggest challenge they are facing is the torture they get from armed thugs who have made it a routine to raid the mine to grab gold from the miners.
“They usually strike at around 5pm and order you to lie down and they start beating you until you surrender to them the gold. The last time they came here they shot someone dead” Longok says he will continue juggling between school and the gold mine in order to raise school fees.
Augustine Kem an elder and a miner says it usually during holidays that most children go the mine. He says the children also perform the same tasks like old people in the mine.
Kem however notes that the local authority has never visited the mine or attempted to stop children from working in it.
To him there’s nothing wrong with children working in the mine to raise school fees or suppliment their parents income.
Who owns the mines
According to Augustine Kem who plies his tade in Moru Akimat mining area a majority of the miners are former cattle rustlers who were deprived off their livelihood by the government led forceful disarmament of firearms.
Kem says the rustlers after losing the guns had to find an alterntive source of livelihood by engaging in mining. He explains that the mines are communally owned and anyone is free to join without any registration.
Kem says government has so far not made any attempt to regulate their activities. He says government officials and a group of whites visited them only once and advised them to form groups so that they can be helped.
To date Kem says the group has not returned something which he says has made it hard for them to regulate who works in the mine.
The mining Act 2003 states that no person may explore or prospect for, or retain or mine or dispose of any mineral in Uganda except under, and in accordance with, a licence issued under the Act.
The Act spells out punishment for a person who contravenes to a fine not exceeding twenty five currency points, or imprisonment for a term not exceeding one year or both.
Uganda’s labor laws
The Employment Decree, 1975 limits employment of children to a minimum 14 years of age. The Decree empowers labour inspectors to monitor compliance.
The Children’s Statute No.16, 1996 spells out the rights of a child and the welfare
principles that guide those caring for children.
Part 2, Section 9 states that: ‘”A child has a right not to be made to work or take part in any activity whether for pay or not which is likely to injure the child’s health, education, mental and physical, or moral development.”
In Uganda, however artisanal mining is still unregulated.

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