Miners get Sh800 million from UNDP for modern equipment
By Nathan Ochunge
| September 14th 2021
At least 300 artisanal miners in Kakamega County have been identified to receive a Sh800 million grant from the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
The funding aims to help the beneficiaries procure modern equipment for extracting gold and eliminate the use of harmful mercury at the gold mines.
Beneficiaries are artisanal miners who risk their lives every day in deep gold shafts due to a lack of sophisticated equipment and tools of the trade.
Many small-scale gold miners within the Lirhanda Corridor, which is rich in gold deposits, use mercury amalgam to speed up the process of extracting gold from its ore.
Lirhanda Corridor stretches from Kakamega, Vihiga, parts of Kisumu to Siaya counties.
According to Patrick Makhule, the Secretary-General of the Kakamega County Artisanal and Small Scale Miners, the UNDP grant will benefit the first batch of ten self-help groups.
“The groups comprising 30 members each have been approved to benefit from the grant. Each group will get Sh80 million, translating to Sh2.67million per member. The money will be used to procure modern equipment to discourage the use of mercury in gold extraction,” said Makhule.
“You must have an existing registered self-help group by the social services department to benefit from the grant, and it’s a five-year program being implemented in phases. The remaining groups will be benefiting from the second grant.”
Makhule said the move is to ensure artisanal and small-scale gold miners use mercury-free and environmentally friendly methods of extracting gold.
“These miners expose themselves to grave health risks since they don’t have safety gears such as earplugs, safety glasses, masks, gloves and gumboots when extracting gold. They also use bare hands in handling mercury, which in the long run makes them lose their fingernails,” said Makhule.
“If a pregnant woman comes into contact with high levels of mercury, it can cause problems for her and her unborn child, as well as affecting the nervous system,” he added.
This comes when the county government of Kakamega, in partnership with the national government, is constructing a Sh100 million gold refinery plant at Lidambitsa in Ikolomani Sub-county.
Records from the Ministry of Petroleum and Mining shows that Kakamega has over 1.31 million ounces of gold deposits along the Lirhanda Corridor valued at Sh171 billion.
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