Fairphone and RVO visit our mercury-free processing centre in Busia, Uganda

In early November 2019, the Impact Facility had an opportunity to demonstrate one of the processing plants already installed to a visiting team from Fairphone and Netherlands Development Agency (RVO).

I met with the mine leaders on the eve of the whole team visit and was able to discuss their equipment needs and the current set of pay per use processing equipment already installed for the community.

Later that afternoon, the visiting team from Fairphone, RVO, Environmental Women in Action for Development (EWAD), Solidaridad and Fairtrade Africa paid a courtesy call to the mine leaders at Busia United.

The meeting was facilitated by Mr Stephen, the secretary for Busia United and the main leader for three small-scale artisanal mining organisations – Busia United, Tiira Landlords and Tiara Small Scale.

The mine leaders were grateful for Mr Gersom from Fairphone and the rest of the team for visiting and were all very ready to show the team how far they have come.

Demonstrating the efficiency of new processing equipment  

The following day, I gathered three miners from Busia United, Tiira Landlords and Tiara Small Scale mines to be trained on the use of the processing equipment so that they could share the future of sustainable processing with the rest of the miners and mine leaders.

The training areas included the use of the 30KVA generator that supplies power to the processing equipment, and the running of the primary concentrator and the shaking table. The exercise involved running tailings, a material left over after processing by the sluice method from a nearby pond. Tailings are normally sold off to people operating cyanidation plants. My goal was to prove the efficiency of the new processing equipment over the sluicing method.

Four wheelbarrows of tailing – 300 kg – acquired from a local a landowner who owns a ball mill and washing pond were used to demonstrate the new processing equipment to the miners. We recovered 0.5 grams of gold from the tailing – this would mean we could recover 2 grams of gold per tonne of tailings! The trainees were very excited by this exercise, and the mine leaders saw the benefit of processing their tailings before selling them to the elution plants. The equipment is able to process three times as much as is processed using the sluice box. The unit also saves a lot of time and, when well operated with a good quantity of ore, is one of the most efficient mercury-free processing units.

A training demonstration for RVO and Fairphone

The next day, the visiting team from Fairphone, RVO, EWAD, Solidaridad and Fairtrade Africa –  Mr Gershom, Mr Silvester, Madam Margret, Mr Joshua Rukundo and Mr Peter Kibathi respectively – all had the opportunity to visit the processing plant and got the feel for how the processing equipment works. The team agreed together to make it everyone’s responsibility to see that the processing unit is fully utilised by promoting it  every time they have a programme in this area of Busia.

A gold recovery competition: new equipment v. old sluicing

Mr Silvester from RVO was so impressed by the processing unit that he felt it was high time that the miners use it for processing as much as possible.

Noting that some miners were still not sure that the unit can recover more than their old sluicing method, Mr Silvester suggested a competition with a prize of $100 for the winner.

He thought it would be good to have a day where the miners and the Impact Facility team would prepare an equal amount of ore from the same production reef, grind it well and divide into two halves. One half would go to the sluicing process as normal for gold extraction, and the other half would be run through the processing equipment by the Impact Facility team, witnessed by Solidaridad, EWAD and Fairtrade Africa. The gold recovered from both methods would be weighed and the method that showed the highest recovery of gold will take the $100!

This competition will remove doubts that the new processing equipment is more effective than sluicing. This was agreed by everyone present including the three mine leaders. I will report back when this competition has taken place!