BORDER CONTROL

Migori miners expel Tanzanians for fear of Covid-19 spread

Thirty per cent of the workforce are Tanzanians.

In Summary

• Some residents working at the mines have also faced the wrath of their colleagues for flouting regulations.

• On Thursday, mines officials, through Saccos and unions, held meetings with members to enforce government directives on combating Covid-19.

A miner at Osiri Matanda gold mines in Nyatike on May 21, 2020.
COVID 19 TANZANIA SCARE: A miner at Osiri Matanda gold mines in Nyatike on May 21, 2020.
Image: MANUEL ODENY

Migori gold miners have decided to self-regulate to keep the coronavirus at bay. 

The county borders Tanzania and its cases have been blamed on residents interaction with people from the neighbouring country. Kenya already closed its border with Tanzania following a surge in cases in bordering counties such as Kajiado and Migori.

At the mines in Migori, 30 per cent of the workforce are Tanzanians. Their presence caused fear, hence the decision to relieve them of their work for fear that they could be the weakest link in the war on the virus. 

Some residents working at the mines have also faced the wrath of their colleagues for flouting regulations.

On Thursday, mines officials, through Saccos and unions, held meetings with members to enforce government directives on combating Covid-19.

“Already, we forced 40 members of our mining community to undergo forced quarantine in government facilities for breaching protocol and having Tanzanians cross over to the mines,” said Peter Onyango, the secretary of Osiri Matanda mining in Nyatike.

For traders within the mining communities, only those who offer essential services have been allowed to operate. The rest have been compelled to close their businesses as the miners moved to ensure total compliance with anti-virus rules, especially social distancing. 

Onyango said before Covid-19, Osiri Matanda mines had a population of more than 4,000 but “we have reduced the number significantly to less than 500.”

Kephas Ojuka, the chairman of Osiri Matanda mines, said the interests of the Tanzanians and those in quarantine are still being taken care of by their associations and unions.

“We had Tanzanians who have invested in crushers, mines and other businesses in centres running into hundreds of thousands," he said.

In several mines, officials have manned and sealed off all routes to have only one or two, which are controlled by youths to secure the area and prevent the spread of the contagion.

Those who control mining pits use thermal guns to test people's temperature and ensure they have face masks and maintain social distance.

At Osiri Matanda, those accessing mines first get their temperature tested, details such as name and travel history are taken. They have to wash their hands and have face masks to be allowed access.

Reached for comment, Nyatike deputy county commissioner Solomen Komen said they closed down all mines in the area and already they arrested two people for breaking mining laws.

“We know artisanal miners have their livelihoods closed, but mines have been the main attraction of Tanzanians and others from hotspots like Nairobi,” Komen said.

He said while communal mines have been closed and are easier to control, individual miners in the area have been told to liaise with administrators and Ministry of Health officials to curb the spread of the virus.

(Edited by F'Orieny)