Kenyan miners take time to learn from gold mines in Geita, Tanzania

It has been a week of great adventures for miners from Migori and Kakamega county gold mines. Four organisations – Fairtrade Africa, Solidaridad, GROOTS Kenya and the Impact Facility – all came together to meet miners from these two counties who came to learn more about better practices in gold mining.

The trip came at the same time that Ms Sofia Olsson, a representative from Comic Relief, the organisation behind the funding of the project, came to witness the robust growth with these mining groups.

Day one: Visit to a Kenyan gold mine

The trip started with a one day visit to promising Kenyan mining group Lorgorian, located several kilometres away from Migori town. This group has recently benefited from two pieces of mining equipment, a generator and a water pump. Upon visiting, Ms Sofia witnessed plenty of happy faces, the miners who are now able to run their machines more easily with power from the new generator, and enjoy comfortable equipment repayment terms – another reason to smile. Speaking in the short meeting, the chairman for the group, Mr Simon, expressed gratitude towards the organisations behind these long-awaited machines.

The Kenyan mining team then crossed to Tanzania and headed for Geita, travelling more than 500 km by road in search of knowledge, keen to learn more about better ways to mine.

Day two: Visit to Nsangano gold mine

The second day, Ms Sofia, accompanied by Mr Stephen Kithuka, country manager of Solidaridad, and Mrs Winifrida Kanwa of Solidaridad Tanzania, enjoyed a great experience at Nsangano gold mine, a family-owned mine.

The visit, which took close to three hours, covered learning and orientation on all mine activities from production to final processing. The Kenyan miners had the opportunity to see how gold can be processed through the use of a gold kacha and shaker table, equipment that was provided under a lease-to-purchase agreement by Impact Facility who ensure that miners are trained to use the equipment and who help identify additional equipment needs.

The miners were mesmerised by the sight of a mine that has grown within a very short time, led by a humble man who was willing to give information about the success and challenges of the mine. They also learned about responsible mining practices, proper use of personal protective equipment, record keeping, worker equality, and use of signage, to mention few.

The team later proceeded to Mgusu Cooperative miners group, a very important mine for the visit since most of the group intend to grow in this style. From the Mgusu Cooperative secretary the group learned a lot regarding the functioning of a cooperative society. One of the outstanding points was how members divide their daily production. The challenges associated with cooperatives were not ignored, despite the great advantages that come from a cooperative.

The miners were also able to see the equipment, pending installation, delivered by the Impact Facility. This mine has had no electricity and therefore installation was not done on time. It is expected that government grid power will be installed in a month’s time.

Day three: Visit to a gold buying centre at Nyarugusu

The next day, the miners had the opportunity to visit Elias Simba mine, a privately owned mine, before heading to a gold buying centre at Nyarugusu. This is a hub made up of at least 18 buyers in offices who buy all gold that is mined locally. This government initiative ensures that the gold market is well controlled and brokers eliminated. The system also enables the government to collect revenue. The miners were able to see the various equipment used by the gold buyers.

In the afternoon, a reflective meeting was held in the hotel where the miners were staying, and everyone talked about the important lessons and what they would take back home.

During this meeting, the Kenyan miners also talked about finding the Impact Facility equipment at the mines they had visited, and had this to say: “So, we now know that the Impact Facility’s actions on the ground are real”.

The miners promised to do their best to keep records to demonstrate continuous improvement in their mines so that they could also soon benefit from similar equipment.