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In mid-January, NAPE in collaboration with Dialogos and three miners from the Philippines carried out a training of trainers (ToT) in the new mercury-free methodology using Borax. The training involved about 35 small-scale artisanal gold miners from Tiira in Busia and Buhweju mining area where the project is being implemented.The trainees (artisanal miners) were drawn from small-scale miner groups near the project area.

Training in the new methodology was conducted by experienced miners from the Philippines, who have used the Borax methodology for a long time. The aim of the training is to stop mercury poisoning, and realize a safer work and living conditions for the artisanal small-scale miners and their families. The trainers took miners through the different steps of processing ore to gold.

The training activities provided opportunity to all miners (Men and Women) in the small-scale mining community to be manually involved in the processing of ore to gold without the use of mercury. The miners practiced safe mining while learning basic steps on processinggold manually without using mercury, which is harmful to health and the environment.

The miners embraced the methodology and they tried their best to master every step of the process of gold extraction without use of mercury. During the training, there was a competition conducted which involved a comparison between processing ore with mercury, and gravity concentration methodology using Borax with 50Kgd of ore. The results of the competition reveled that gravity concentration recovers more gold than the traditional mercury method. The mercury method lost to the new method using Borax. This was convincing to miners, and they expressed willingness to change from mercury methodology to the mercury-free methodology after seeing the results of the competition.

At the end of the training, trainees were awarded certificates of recognition for participating in the mercury-free training. They were encouraged to transfer the knowledge they had acquired to their fellow miners in the district. Miners who excelled well in the training were offered an opportunity to participate in a knowledge exchange visit to Gaitaa in Tanzania where artisanal gold mining is also practiced, and also use mercury.

In mid-February, NAPE led a ten-man delegation to Gaita in Tanzania for a knowledge exchange and learning tour. The Ugandan delegation comprised the best performers in the Mercury-Free gold mining training under the Mercury-Free project. The team that went to Gaita also comprised of government officials from both Tanzania and Uganda. From Ugandan side, NAPE delegation was also joined by representatives from the National Environment Management Authority (NEMA), the Ministry of Energy and Mineral Development (MEMD), and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development.

The learning tour provided a platform for government officials from Uganda and Tanzania to discuss different aspects of artisanal, and small-scale gold miner shared experiences and learnt from artisanal miners in Katavi and Gaita in Tanzania. The kind of knowledge exchanges enhances the activities of Free Your Mine project and empowers artisanal and small-scale miners. The ultimate goal of the “Free Your Mine” project is to stop mercury pollution and realize a mercury-free ASGM in Uganda and the region.

Story compiled by Betty Obbo