Artisanal miners in Karamoja region have increased gold prices by three-fold due to shortage of water.
In December 2020, the miners were selling a gram at Shs 70,000 but are currently charging as much as Shs 200,000 per gram. Several miners in Rupa sub-county in Moroto district said that they decided to increase the gold prices due to difficulties that they face in getting water for ‘washing’ the soil that they get the gold from.
Mary Nakut one of the gold miners in Rupa sub-county in Moroto district said, accessing water for ‘washing’ soil has become difficult since most of the water sources including boreholes have all dried up as a result of the current drought.
She said without enough water, it becomes very hard for someone to get gold that they can sell. Jane Nangiro another gold miner in Lolung gold mining site in Lotisan sub-county, Moroto district said they hire boda-boda riders to fetch for them water from some of the few functioning boreholes that are still holding water but are very far away.
“Right now, we buy water from the boda-boda operators at a high price of Shs 2,000 for a 20-litre jerrycan but you are not assured that you get gold. Some days you wash soil and you end up getting nothing the whole day and another day you can get gold weighing two grams; it is all about luck,” she said.
John Lomuria another gold miner in Nakabat mining site in Rupa sub-county in Moroto district said the increase in gold prices is also caused by other challenges that they face while searching for gold including snake bites and soil burying people.
Musa Lowot, the Moroto district water officer confirmed the water levels in most of the boreholes have gone down, something he said they are trying to engage other stakeholders over to find possible ways to make water available for domestic use and animals. According to Lowot, it’s not the first-time water levels are going down in boreholes in the entire Karamoja region given the fact that Karamoja relies on nature.
Meanwhile, the gold miners from Acerer in Nakapiripirit and Chepkararat in Karita sub-county in Amudat district are facing the same challenge. Johnson Wabwire, a gold buyer said that the increased prices of gold by the miners are worrying since they also get little profit from where they go to sell.
“We have also tried to increase the price of selling the gold to our buyers in Kampala but they are not understanding what we are going through on the ground with the miners,” he said.
Sarah Chepal a gold miner from Karita sub-county in Amudat however, said some of the gold buyers cheat the miners with fake gold weighing scales. She asked the government and the district leaders in the region to help them get rid of gold buyers who are using fake weighing scales to cheat the miners.
Mark Abuku, the district LC V chairperson Kaabong confirmed the miners are going through a big challenge of water. He noted that very many people are now looking at mining gold as the only way to get some little money to fight the current hunger in their homes.
The current drought has hit Karamoja harder, with hundreds of the pastoralists in the region planning to flee away with their livestock to the neighbouring subregions of Lango, Teso, Sebei and Acholi in search of water and pasture.