Kenya: Govt. closes over 40 artisanal gold mines for poor workplace health & safety conditions

Author: Ruth Mbula & Ian Byron, Daily Nation (Kenya), Published on: 9 October 2019

"Tycoons who reap big from the Migori gold mines of death"

The closure of over 40 gold mining and processing plants in Migori County in the past three weeks has unmasked the powerful tycoons behind the lucrative enterprise that is also responsible for the suffering of thousands of workers who have for years been exploited by the owners for years. Determined to reverse the trend, a government-appointed task force headed by the Migori County Commissioner Joseph Rotich has been conducting an operation to crack down on plants that have been flouting mining rules...

The multi-agency team established that most plants do not have safe disposal of used materials, especially hazardous waste. They also lack proper labelling and storage of toxic chemicals. “You can see most use cyanide to process their gold. Cyanide is a toxic chemical. It is illegally imported from the neighbouring Tanzania,” said Mr Rotich. Many also discard the pollutants into water bodies and the environment.River Kuja and River Migori which discharge into Lake Victoria are the most affected. There have been various incidents of livestock dying after consuming polluted water.Health experts have warned that people living in areas surrounding the mines are slowly being affected and the effects of the pollutants may start manifesting themselves in the coming days.Also, health and safety standards of miners have not been adhered to. Dozens of miners have been buried alive in mines....

The Ministry of Labour, on the other hand, accuses the plant owners of failing to ensure that no child is employed in the mines.The mine owners have also failed to adhere to occupational safety and health issues and that wages of labourers are regulated as per the 2018 order that amended Labour Institutions No. 12 of 2007 Act.

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