Small and large-scale mining produce rubble and other spoil as a by-product of mining activities. Rocks, sand and other materials that are discarded often still contain small amounts of valuable materials. People from poor neighbouring communities search the spoil for items of value that are then on sold to local brokers, often for very small amounts of money. People who engage in rubble collection tend to be from very low-income communities that are primarily engaged in subsistence farming and pastoralism, with few other sources of income.
Rubble collection and processing is entirely manual with all work done by hand, including collection, carrying from the ruble heap, rock breaking, crushing, grinding, panning, sluicing, amalgamating (mercury) , open burning (separation of gold from mercury) and transport for sale. Tools are basic and include small hammers, pliers, pans, sluice box, ball mills, and sacks. All work is outdoors and without protection from the weather, dust and mercury.
DRubble collectors face a very wide range of hazards including dust related illness, falling into abandoned mining pits or down rubble mounds, injuries caused by scrambling over rubble while unprotected, chemical exposure from mercury including inhelation of mercury fume due to open burning of gold amalgam and contaminated spoil (particularly mercury), and working in close proximity to underground blasting and industrial noise. Rape and sexual assault of both women and men occur frequently as collectors walk between their villages and collection sites. These assaults often result in serious injury and sexually transmitted disease.
While rubble collectors and their families are often dependent on the small income generated, the inherent dangers mean that is it a highly undesirable means of income generation that carries very high personal risks. These communities are under significant economic pressure that often compels them to participate in rubble collection. These communities are drawn into rubble collection by a range of economic factors. Economic pressure and limited available alternatives make it very difficult for rubble collectors to choose not to participate. Seeing the value of rubble collection to mining community’s livelihood, HakiMadini intends to provide Occupational Health and Safety (OHS) training to rubble collectors of Mundarara, Naisinyai, Nyarugusu and Rwamgasa to ensure continued benefits of rubble collection these communities.