PHASE I: MERELANI TANZANITE MINES
Day 1: 9 July 1993
We travelled from Dar es Salaam to Moshi.
Day 2: 10 July 1993
We arrived at Merelani village, some 40 kilometres West of Moshi in the afternoon and visited the AREMA office (Arusha Region Miners Association) where we met Mr. Henry Urio, the person in-charge of security within the association.
The village seemed to be thriving with activity. We met officials of Tanzania Gemstone Industries who have set-up a gemstone buying post. Mr. Henry Urio took us to their area of mining activities named block D. The following data was gathered:-
(i) The population of miners is around 35.000 people.
(ii) Currently there are 459 mining pits out of which 10 are productive.
(iii) He cited the main problem to be lack of suitable mining equipment because of the depth miners have to dig to find the valuable mineral. At present only a handful of miners own compressors and jack hammers.
(iv) Revenues realised since May 1991 amounted to Tshs.90 million.
We then went for a tour of the diggings accompanied by Mr. Mwaipape and Urio. The following were observed:
(i) The entire area (about 0.5kms2) is impregnated by several mining pits clustered together and without any protection around the entrance.
(ii) Huge heaps of mined out rock surround the mining pits without any protection around. This means the mine pits are not protected from rock falling back into the pits, this could endanger life of miners.
(iii) Miners emerging from the pits are smeared in black powdery material i.e. graphite.
It therefore implies that graphite dust poses a danger to the miners.
(iv) Although compressors work throughout for mining and ventilation, miners complain of inadequate oxygen as pits depth have reached 200 feet or more.
(v) From what we were told, it appears there are no plans to reclaim the mined out and unproductive pits. The reason we were given is that the miners do not have sufficient funds to carry out the exercise.
(vi) In this area no chemicals are used, hence pollution of the environment resulting from chemical use is not present.
We travelled back to Dar es Salaam.
PHASE II: THE LAKE ZONE Day 1: 28 July 1993
· Mwanza Zonal Mines Office
At the Mwanza Zonal Mines office, we met Mr. Elias Azaria who is the zonal mining technician. During the time of our visit, the zonal mining engineer and the zonal mines officer were attending other official duties.
Since our intention was to proceed to Musoma on the same day, Mr. Azaria assisted us with the names of officials to meet in Musoma/Tarime. We then proceeded to Musoma, 215 kilometres north-east of Mwanza.
Day 2: 27 July 1993
From Musoma we proceeded to Tarime (80 kilometres north-east of Musoma town). We were accompanied by Mr. Alis Kusekwa, the District Mines Officer, and travelled with him to Nyabigena which is an active gold mining area. We met and held discussions with members of the Nyabigena Miners Co-operative Society (NMCS). The following were the pertinent points gleaned:-
· Mr. Masanda Umtima who is the NMCS Secretary explained the organizational setup of the co-operative. He told us that it was constituted by a Chairman, Vice-Chairman, Secretary, Assistant Secretary, Treasurer and an agent whose main duty is to liaise with outside organizations.
· The co-operative consisted of 150 members
· The population was altogether some 40, 000 people i.e. this included people from the surrounding villages.
· The type of ore mined is reef.
· The number of mine pits totalled 199, the sizes of which ore 1.5 metres by 2 metres.
· Physical inspection of the claim (1500 feet × 600 feet) revealed that the mining pits are clustered together at short distances.
· Ore extraction is done using picks, shovels, hammers and chisels. Rock breaking is done using explosives due to hardness of the rock. The mine is drained using pumps. No ventilation machinery was available. However, natural draught is created due to proximity of the pits which also join at some point underground.
· The area around the pits are surrounded by huge heaps of rocks already mined out. We saw that the pits had no protection around them posing a danger to both underground and surface workers in the event of rock falling from the heaps into the mine pits.
· Mr. Umtima took us to an isolated area where some elderly women were engaged in gold recovery by panning using Mercury to produce an amalgam bed which is later heated in the open to sublime Mercury and recover gold.
· When the women were asked whether they had any knowledge of the dangers of Mercury/Mercury fumes, they replied that they had no knowledge. One lady by the name Gaayi, told us that she normally heated the amalgam bed at home. We hinted to them that Mercury was a dangerous chemical which could cause damage to both man and the environment. This fact raised their eyebrows since they had been using Mercury intensively.
· We were taken to a river running along the mine area (River Tigite). One Amos Marwa who is a miner and an executive member of the co-operative told us that Mercury is not used for panning gold near the river, all panning is done far from the river. He intimated to us that some organizations visited them and told leaders of the co-operative not to use Mercury near the rivers. It appeared that they were not told why they should not.
· We were later told that out of the 199 mine pits, only 140 pits were active. We found out that all inactive pits were not covered. Most of the miners interviewed did not consider reclaiming the land to be an important aspect. If a new gold prospect was found, they simply abandoned the present pits and moved to a new area.
· During our wrap-up meeting we gave them some advice on how environmental damage can be minimized. We informed them about simple retorts which can be used to treat amalgam gold and eliminate the presence of ambient Mercury fumes. We explained to them how Mercury interferes with the food chain to the detriment of human beings.
· As far as land reclamation is concerned they believe that this should be the Government's responsibility since they do not have the means and funds to execute such tasks.
Day 3: 28 July 1993
· Mwanza Zonal Mines Office
We had discussions with Mr. Seth Mwakyolile who is the Zonal Mines Officer In-charge together with Mr. Asa Mwaipopo. Our discussion focussed mainly on environmental issues arising out of artisanal mining activities. They raised the following points:-
· They were of the view that artisanal miners have no mining culture and regarded most of them as mere opportunists, who, like "nomads"; were always moving to "greener pastures".
· Most artisanal miners had no regard to environmental problems they create. In fact they were not aware that they are causing massive land degradation which is bound to affect their very existence.
· Miners were oblivious of the dangers of Mercury or cyanide pollution dusts or water silting created by mining activities. We were told that cyanide used at Bulangamirwa mine (operated 1936/37) still poses a problem today. Mr. Mmole of Madini Laboratories, Dodoma, did some analysis on some tailings from this mine. They have estimated that one unit of Mercury produces one unit of gold.
· Most mining communities lacked the basic infrastructural support (e.g. lacked any medical facilities or hygienic standards).
Day 4: 20 July 1993
Discussions were held with Mr. Kibumo, the Shinyanga Zonal Mines Officer and Mr. Omari Chambo, the Zonal Mining Engineer. We were told that in this zone, miners use a lot of timber for mine support (resulting into deforestation as there was no tree replanting programme). Another problem was the intensive use of Mercury and, in some areas (like Matinje), cyanide was also used by one Mr. Joshua Nelson, of course, the scattered mine pits top the list of areas facing environmental problems.
They said that their office was duty bound to enforce mining laws and regulations but due to the lack of funds and vehicles, the work is impossible to execute. They hoped for some institutional support from the World Bank.
We later proceeded to Nzega accompanied by a mining technician - Mr. Zephrine.
· Nzega Ndogo
In this area, we visited two artisanal mining areas; one was Isungangwanda, which is about 58 kilometres from Shinyanga along the Shinyanga-Nzega road and the other was Lusu, about 1 kilometre from Isungangwanda. At Isungangwanda, a few artisanal miners could be seen working. A river passing by the workings had dried up due to silt accumulating in the river because ore is washed inside the river. We were told that only a few years back, the river was free flowing. Several grazing cow herds and children and adults moving around on bicycles could be seen around the mining area.
We then drove to the diggings (about one kilometre from Isungangwanda).
· Here we met with one claim holder by the name of Mr. Kassim Mfaume who holds claim No. Five. He told us he has 500 mine pits with depths up to 150 feet spread all over his claim. However, only 10 pits were active and the rest were not covered. As we toured his claim, he said that there had been accidents in some of the pits. He said he tried to cover the pits using timber without much success because the timber became a source of fuelwood to the villagers. Some of the pits we saw were as close as one metre from a busy village road.
· Mercury is used for amalgamating gold. However, there are no rivers around the vicinity of the mines. Water is transported by traders on bicycles and costed up to Tshs.25.00 per litre. It was apparent (to us, at least), that the environment here suffered from extensive diggings of mine pits without any reclamation plans, or dealing with the health hazards brought about by the dusts emanating from crushing the ore by pestle-and-mortar (in most cases the workers crush the ore for non-stop over 24 hours) or the Mercury fumes come out of heating the amalgam.
· When Mr. Mfaume was asked whether he knew of the dangers of using Mercury, he replied that he had no knowledge.
· Before leaving he was given advice on safe handling of amalgam by using simple retorts which he was prepared to buy. The question was whether these were available.
We then proceeded to another location within Lusu-claim No. 1 belonging to one Anaclet Patrick who was not available. We spoke to Mr. Salim Adhifa, who was in-charge of the mine.
· He showed us small ball mills made out of two truck reams welded together. They are connected in series and driven by a tractor with one wheel removed. The rear wheel drive member is connected to the ball mills through 2 series of axles. Grinding media consisted of balls of different sizes (0.5" - 1.0'). Gold extraction was done by using Mercury and a Copper plate. We were told that cyanide leaching would be introduced later on.
The mine-in-charge told us that he was aware of the hazards of both Mercury and Cyanide which he learned from a certain company - TANCAN which operates in the Matinje area.
Day 5: 30 July 1993
· Ushirombo Kahama
We travelled to Ushirombo Gold Mines accompanied by Mr. Kizuguto who is the Kahama District Mines Officer. It is 191 kms. from Kahama town and 5 kms. east of the Kahama-Rwanda Highway.
Here we met officials of the Katente Miners Co-operative Union Mr. Alex Petro (the Vice Chairman) and Mr. Paulo Nchema (the Secretary), who told us that me society was registered in April 1993. The organizational set-up consisted of a Chairman, Vice Chairman, Secretary, Assistant Secretary and Committee Members.
We proceeded to the mining areas where hundreds of mine pits could be seen. We learnt the following:-
· Timber logs used for mine support were scattered around the pits ready for use.
· Mr. Alex Petro said that the timber logs are obtained near the village. When asked whether there was any afforestation plans, he replied that the Government had these plans so they were not worried about any impending danger of deforestation. They expressed a strong belief that environmental issues are a responsibility of the Government which they said gets all the Gold they produced under very difficult conditions.
· Mr. Kizuguto explained that he normally runs seminars for the miners, the aim being to educate them on proper ways of mining and how to care for the environment; however, he said a large number of miners have had no formal education which was a source of exasperation for him.
· We were then taken to see the place where washing was done to recover gold. A simple sluice is used and in the next stage amalgamation using Mercury is done. We noted that this place was about 2 metres from a well where villagers obtained their drinking water. Water samples were taken at the washing area and at the water well to check for the presence of Mercury.
· During the wrap-up meeting (with the leaders and members of the miners cooperative union), we took time to give pertinent advice on proper/appropriate mining and ore-processing technology and the dangers that emanate from land degradation and the improper use of Mercury. The following were some of the points raised:-
(i) Ore comminution (i.e. the crushing and grinding of rock) can be done in a simple crushers and ball mills.
(ii) Amalgamation can be done in a simple barrel coupled with a copper plate.
(iii) Mercury can be separated from gold using a simple retort.
The reply to the above explanations was that all the above equipment were not locally available. The general view was that most claim holders had the financial capability to buy these equipment if they were fairly priced.
Day 6: 31 July 1993
· Bulyanhulu (Kahama)
We took a short-route from Ushirombo and arrived at the STAMICO mine camp in Kahama.
The next morning we went straight to the artisanal mining areas. Gold exploration at Kahama by STAMICO and its Finnish partners and later on by Placer Dome had revealed three distinctive reefs; gold reserves are estimated at 40 tons.
Here, we could see several hundred pits some measuring as small as 3 ft × 3 ft. The strike length of the ore body was impregnated by these small pits which made it look like a 'honey comb' or an 'ant-hill'.
Characteristic of all the artisanal mining sites visited, many mine pits left in reef No. 2 after underground water was encountered, were not covered. We found people selling and others buying rock for crushing to liberate gold.
Mr. Kizogoto, the Mines Officer who accompanied us condemned some of the mine pits outright. However, as we left people could be seen continuing with their activities as usual.
We then proceeded to the ore washing area which is in very close proximity to Bulyanhulu River. The following is what we saw:-
· There were hundreds of gold panners using simple sluices named 'Mboka' by the miners.
· Smooth river flow was hampered by huge mounds of earth to be washed to recover gold.
· More miners with ore joined the others to pan for gold.
· Mercury was used intensively for gold recovery.
· To drive-off the Mercury, heat treatment was employed in the open.
"We then took some water samples upstream, downstream and at the area of concentrated washing.
We concluded that it was simply a matter of time before the river dries up due to silting.
We travelled about 5 kms. north-west of Bulyanhulu to Nyakagwe where Kiganga and Associates Company Ltd. hold a Prospecting License (PL). There we were met with Messrs. Deusdedit Rwezimuro; the Manager, Paul Mabele, the Mechanical Engineer and Robert Kiganga, the Accountant.
The Manager said that their prospecting License covered an area of 32kms2 and were currently negotiating for joint venture with East Africa Mines Ltd., an Australian owned company. Drilling is in progress following which a feasibility study will be prepared. A joint venture company - Ikina Reef Company Limited, will be formed if the project is found to be financially viable.
The company set-up a small pilot mill to recover the gold. It consists of a generator, crusher, ball mill and local sluice box. We were informed that production was about 36 grams/day. The ore came from holders of mineral rights.
The Manager said that the feasibility study would incorporate land reclamation plans. He was not sure as yet which process would be used for recovering the gold.
This famous mining town is 30 kms. from Nyakagwe. We had the opportunity to hold a discussion with members of Mwanza Region Miners Association (MWAREMA) the headquarters of which was Nyarugusu.
Mr. Obadia Muamwamu gave us a rundown of the organization as follows:-
MWAREMA had three branches; Nyarugusu, Mugusu and Nyamtondo. Invariably, the organization of MWAREMA is similar to the other mining co-operatives earlier discussed. However, MWAREMA has formed a subsidiary Mwanza Mining Company Limited (MWAMICO) to be its commercial wing.
A tour of the mining areas revealed the following:-
· Massive land degradation is a result of many years of artisanal mining activities in which the area concerned is simply destroyed.
· There are in total 12 registered claims. Many mine pits could be seen to the extent that most of the officials did not know their numbers.
· Some of the pits had caved in, vegetation was scarce, and only a few trees could be seen.
· One dam which was operative only some years back, had disappeared under heaps of tailings.
· Mercury was invariably used in the recovery of gold.
When we asked whether or not MWAREMA had any plans to reclaim the abandoned areas for other purposes, we got replies from which we deduced that no such plans existed.
While proceeding to Geita, we stopped at a bridge where some people were panning using sluices and Mercury to recover gold; a few metres away, two young boys were fishing.
Day 7: 1 August 1993
· Mugusu (Geita District)
We travelled from Buckreef Gold mine (where we spent the night), to Mugusu which is about 22 kilometres from Geita town. A Geita district mine technician, Mr. Kabadi accompanied us.
There are two claims in Mugusu, owned by Mr. Chipaka. We met Mr. Jarida Ngonyani, CCM Secretary; Fadhili Magoya, Security Advisor; and Hussein and Kassim Mbonde own the mine.
We were given the following information:-
· The Population of Mugusu consists of about 15, 000-20, 000 people.
· There are 700 mining pits in the Mugusu Hills out of which 300 are active mines.
· Shaft depths went down to 300-400 feet.
· Mining was done using picks, hammers, shovels and hoisting done by using wooden pulleys and rope, buckets and karais.
· No explosives are used. The ore is soft (quartz stringers).
· Mine ventilation is very poor (except where two pits meet underground).
Processing follows the following steps to recover gold:-
· Comminution using pestle and wooden mortar; the pestle being a heavy axle.
· Regrinding of ore is done using grinding stones.
· Use is made of simple locally made sluice.
· Amalgamating the finely ground ore is done using Mercury in a water medium (pulping).
· Squeezing the Mercury using a piece of cloth to squeeze the Mercury out.
· The amalgam is heated to drive off the Mercury.
It is estimated that the gold produced at Mugusu per annum is around 18-25 kilograms.
We then visited the Mugusu River where we saw hundreds of miners sluicing the ore and amalgamating it in order to recover the gold.
· The river bed is extensively damaged due to excessive silting.
· One of the miners admitted that a few years back the river was free flowing - and deeper than it was at present.
· None of the miners knew the dangers of using Mercury in rivers or the effects produced by heating the amalgam.
We took water samples upstream, downstream and at the core activity to check for the presence of Mercury.
We concluded that the river could disappear in the following few years.
Day 8: 2 August 1993
· Mwanza Zonal Mines Office
The day was spent at the Mwanza Madini office obtaining statistics of both gold production and Mercury sales to artisanal miners.
We left for Dar es Salaam on 3 August 1993.