Steven Kuuchya Ajob lifts the pick axe and strikes through a black rock, 58 feet below the surface in an open-pit gold mine.
“You hear that? Do you hear that? That is the sound of gold,” he says, as he lifts the pick axe again and digs deeper into the rock. He is covered in dust from head to toe with no mask to prevent him from inhaling the dust.
He is sweating profusely, wiping the sweat off his face using the back of his hand. There is only one jar of water in sight to be shared with his five colleagues. Ajob’s tattered shirt is torn beyond recognition, leaving his bare back to sock in the heat and dust. He does not have any protective gear, mask, goggles, gumboots, flash light or overalls.
His is the kind of trade which depends on the energy and resilience of a man who must work against all odds to search for gold. He is part of a large community at Nsango, who have abandoned farming, fishing and trading for artisanal gold mining. Theirs is such a rudimentary means of mining, which depends solely on luck because they sometimes spend days digging but do not get any gold nuggets.
Gold is a lucrative gem, which is used to make jewellery, electronics, especially in the computer industry, and other equipment. In Uganda, gold is also mined in Karamoja, Buhweju, Bushenyi, Mbarara, Kabale, Kisoro, Busia, Mubende district and Hoima districts.
On this Sunday, Ajob arrived for work at 6am He grabbed his pick axe, hoe, spade and container and headed out to the site where he teamed up with his colleagues. They set off to dig the tunnel deeper; everything is done manually. They cannot afford to take a day off because any rest means money lost.
Ajob started mining gold in August 2013, when a group of geologists from Tiira, in Busia district, came to Nsango to collect stones.
“They realised that the stones contained gold nuggets; so, they started to dig. When we saw them, we were curious. We would come to watch what they were doing. The day we learnt they were mining gold, the whole village was excited. Everyone wanted to mine and so we went home, picked our hoes and started digging,” says Ali Mususwa, another gold miner.
– The Observer