KAMPALA —A mining expert has raised concern on the increasing involvement of children and untrained workers in the mining sector — revealing it poses a huge risk.
Mr. Franklin Bouguep, the Executive Director Solid Rock/Uganda made the remarks at the 8th Annual Mineral Wealth Conference held at the Serena Hotel in Kampala, an event that was also graced by Vice President Edward Ssekandi and Energy minister Irene Muloni.
He said that artisanal miners use their hands to extract materials, utilizing little technology or machinery.
According to the report, an estimated 40 percent of artisanal mining workers in Uganda are children.
Artisanal mining is especially treacherous, as it requires plucking stone from loose surface or tunneling, which can lead to deadly rockslides.
The heavy work, he warned can permanently damage a growing child’s bones and muscles as minerals mined are often hazardous and that can have profound health effects.
Mr. Bouguep said mining workers especially young people need to be provided with health and safety training especially on how to use the tools which he noted that majority are very dangerous chemicals.
Bouguep whose company is already equipping over 1500 youths with intense skills in areas of construction, pipe rifting, carpentry and rigging to benefit in the gas and oil sector said that he realized from the conference that companies were not aware of the dangers associated with using unskilled workers in such a dangerous environment.
“Solid Rock [Life &Business] can actually provide the required capacity building for their staff to be able to do the work more effectively,” he said noting that Solid Rock —Life & Business also offers gender based trainings to industry actors.
He also told stakeholders about the industry-associated abuses such as sexual harassment to local community members among others.
“We want to build our contribution alongside UNICEF, UNDP in providing correct information to the people in the communities by training and providing capacity building iniatives,” he added.
He also revealed that Solid Rock – Life and Business, a company to whom he’s the Executive Director Global Operations has allocated over $20,000 grant to train artisan miners.
“This is free money for artisan miners to tap into their capacity building,” he said not the company is already working the Artisan Mining Association to develop the former’s capacity building.
“That’s one area where Solid Rock is investing in the youth in this country on top of a whole venture of training that includes mechanics, pipe fitters, riggers, construction works and full spectrum that is needed in the specific industry.”
He encouraged companies and young people who need to equip themselves to thrive in these new jobs to come close to Solid Rock for training.
The same company is already working with northern Alberta Institute of Technology to transform UTC Lira to a Center of Excellence in road construction under the World Bank funded Uganda Skills Development Project (USDP).
The project is being managed by Ministry of Education and Sports.
President Yoweri Museveni who was represented by Vice President Ssekandi said that the mineral sector has potential to transform the country’s economy given its backward and forward linkages with other keys sectors of the economy such as agriculture, energy, trade and manufacturing.
He expressed gratitude about how the exploration and exploitation of the mineral resources that the country is blessed with, in causing development through job creation, foreign exchange, gross domestic product growth and widening the tax base of the country.
Meanwhile, in a well attended two day event, Minister for Energy and Mineral resources Engineer Irene Muloni said that government may come up with reprimanding measures against people who inflate land costs where government projects are set to commence like roads, mines and called upon mining investors to come up with technologies that can detect fraud of unscrupulous people who erect empty tombs on land on which government projects are set for in order to attract huge compensations.
The chairman board of Trustees of Uganda Chamber of mines and Petroleum Richard Kaijuka called upon government to put more interest in the mining sector and also set up a development authority for minerals as is the case with Coffee, Cotton, Dairy and well as harmonise the salaries for other minerals employees to match those in the petroleum sector since they have the same potential to cause transformation of the country.