Government suspends gold mining in Siaya County

Nango gold Mine

Residents mill around Nango gold mine in Bondo, Siaya County, where three students died on October 10, 2019. 

Photo credit: File |MNation Media Group

The government has suspended gold mining in Bondo and Rarieda sub counties over use of poisonous chemicals that has caused death of animals and pollution of the environment.

Siaya County Director of National Environment Management Authority (Nema) William Odeyo raised concerns that the use of sodium cyanide (a poisonous compound with the formula NaC) for leaching of gold in a number of sites is posing serious health risks to the locals.

 “The authority hereby directs that all leaching sites stop operations with immediate effect,” he said in a notice copied to regional police commanders and deputy county commissioners.

Mr Odeyo noted that the revelation came after numerous complaints from the residents regarding the use of the toxic substance to extract the precious metal.

Gold miners use life-threatening sodium cyanide to separate gold from sand. Large doses of cyanide deprives cells of oxygen and eventually leads to the death of cells.

According to a report by the National Environmental and Complaints Committee, the heart, respiratory system and central nervous systems are most susceptible to cyanide poisoning.

The regional National Environment Management Authority (Nema) boss further noted that over 50 per cent of an estimated 3,000 small scale miners do not have mining permits from the State Department of Mining.

The environmental watchdog pointed out that only sites that are in compliance with the requirements of the EMCA Cap 387 and the Mining Act of 2016 will be allowed to operate.

Siaya County authorities recently raised concerns that mushrooming of illegal mining sites in Bondo and Rarieda sub counties has seen a rise in open-pit mines that endangers the lives of the operators and residents.

Some of the areas identified include Wagusu, Abimbo and Nango in Bondo Sub County, where some of the miners are reported to be operating without observing basic safety standards.

The victims included a Kenya Certificate of Secondary Education candidate at Uyawi Secondary School and another one from Egerton University.