By Alex Gahima
As the people of Bukimbiri County, Kisoro district today cast their vote to choose their next representative in Parliament for Bukimbiri County, nine month old, Kathrada Mining has said Government needs to consider boasting the gold mining sector in the area.
A recent study by Ministry of Energy and Mineral development, revealed that a total of 52 drilling points for gold exploitation can be found in Bukimbiri County.
Erick Etomete, manager of Kathrada Mining says, the company is hoping to develop at least 10 drilling points.
Etomete says, the company that has already invested over 1 million US dollars and is yet to get any gold nuggets or gold powder.
According to Etomete, the company is still in the process of exploration and drilling.
The mining site, located in Nyamasinda Village, Nyanamo town council is currently employing 80% of its workers from within Bukimbiri County, including the indigenous Batwa.
The gold mine is strategically located near Bwindi Impenetrable National park. Workers who spoke to Voice of Muhabura, say elephant sightings are common as they often come close to the camp.
The workers, mostly rely on rudimentary tools to collect and sieve the muddy soils in hopes of getting something, which passes for Gold.
Over 90% of mining in Uganda is done by artisanal and small-scale miners estimated to be more than 390,000 country-wide.
The current price of one gram of gold is 222,000 Ugandan shillings.
The highest paid worker at the site receives 30,000 per day for six days (180,000) while the rest earn 10,000 per day for six days (60,000) including breakfast every morning.
Some of the workers say it is hard to work in gold mines without protective gear because their lives are at risk.
They called on Government to support the sector.
Nyamasinda LCI village Benon Mugisha says the company has done well to construct a bridge and a community road that is benefitting the communities.
He however noted that the real value of the gold and its exploration is yet to be felt in the communities in terms of royalties.
According to Etomete, poor road network is a major challenge because when it rains, work has to stop completely because no vehicle, 4wheel drive or not can make it from to the mining camp.
He also noted that buying of more land for expansion is so costly because of being close to the national park, most land owners prefer to set up lodges and campsites.
Etomete says when consulted to sell their land, the often ask for monies in the hundreds of millions of shillings for small pieces of land, which is unrealistic.
Etomete says the incoming Member of Parliament should consider investing more time and resources into Gold mining industry because it has the potential to employ more youth and increase household incomes in Bukimbiri County.
Warden Tourism Rushaga, Bwindi Impenetrable National Park Ronald Tindyebwa says it is possible for the gold mining and wildlife to co-exist.
He however noted that the arrangement must never endanger the unique flora and fauna existing in the national park because it is one of the biggest tourism earners for the country.