Improvement of health and safety of small-scale iron ore miners in South Western Uganda
Twine, Usito Bakesigakyi
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The study examines the improvement of health and safety of Artisan and Small-Scale iron ore miners in South West Uganda. Mining in Uganda is carried out by a combination of officially registered mining companies and artisanal and small-scale miners. The artisanal and small-scale miners are usually manual, unlicensed and ad hoc, sometimes even mechanical. Due to the absence of widespread, large-scale mining in Uganda, artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM) makes up a significant portion of the countries mineral production (up to 90% of Uganda’s mineral production), with most operations concentrated in southwestern Uganda. The high-level risk characterized by low educational level of workers, lack of safety culture, use of rudimentary tools and communication problems is a challenge in ASM. This mining activity often perpetuates poverty through high sensitivity to physical hazards, illness, accidents, and lack of knowledge about more efficient, safer, and environmentally friendly techniques. This study therefore assesses health and safety measures in place as per the existing mining techniques, determines the risk factors associated with ASM, suggests the appropriate mining techniques/processes and establishes the health and safety interventions and related cost benefits in south western Uganda. The study adopted exploratory and quantitative approach involving direct interaction with stakeholders of the mine sites, quantifying noise levels and particulate matter for purposes of comparing the results with Acceptable Occupational Exposure Limits (AOEL). Questionnaires and checklists were administered to 124 respondents. To ascertain the presence of other risk factors like excessive noise levels and dust particulates, a sound level meter and dust particulate counter machine PCE-PCO 1 were used respectively. The study findings revealed that 1.5 deaths occur in every 19,000man hours due to poor safety and health conditions of Artisan and Small-Scale Miners in Uganda. It was also found out that workers are exposed to high risks posed by dust, heat stress, suffocation, pit falls, flying rock fragments and poor sanitation and hygiene. This situation is compounded by average workdays amounting to 10-12 hours per day, lack of on-site first aid, personal protective equipment (PPE) and other much-needed management measures. Further investigations indicate extreme high dust particulates (0.3µm-1µm) and total sound pressure levels of 99.9dBA for 8 hours a day. These are much higher than acceptable exposure limit levels and require urgent control. The study suggests a number of interventions that include among others purchasing personal protective equipment, improving the working conditions, remuneration and embracing new mining technologies. These interventions have cost implications attached to them and therefore a cost benefit analysis was determined and a positive Net Present Value (NPV) of $100,149,900 for a period of 3 years was obtained. This is an indicator that investment in this project is viable. The study finally concluded that there is need to regularize and improve ASM through the application of regulations; the provision of information on the availability of production and marketing facilities; the provision of extension services through miner’s associations; and the implementation of awareness campaigns targeting workers.