Rush for gold claims three lives at Rosterman in kakamega town
Thursday, April 14, 2011 By Chris Mahandara.
Three people yesterday evening suffocated and died on the spot in a gold mine at Rosterman in Kakamega town. Elly Omondi 43, Cosmus Muteshi 28 and Maxwell Wanyonyi 23 met their death at 5p.m while draining water from a gold mine tunnel. Three others, George Simwa 33, Andrew Shilongo 43 and Joel Lukalia 24 were rescued by members of the public and rushed to Kakamega Provincial General Hospital for treatment. Andrew Shilongo who survived the incident said the miners had spotted a Gold bar deep in the tunnel and were using a generator to pump water out of the tunnel in order to remove the gold. The generator which was inside the tunnel, he said suddenly went off and the site manager Elly Omondi went down to fix it. He was however engulfed in carbon monoxide emitted by the generator and fell unconscious. It is here that Cosmus Muteshi and Maxwell Wanyonyi went down the tunnel to rescue him but also got suffocated. Two others went in to rescue them but due to lack of oxygen they were unable to complete the mission. Speaking from his hospital bed, Shilongo said he went into the tunnel with a rope and managed to tie two of his colleagues and pulled them out. “By this time the three had already died and there is nothing we could have done,” he said. Police led by Kakamega Central Officer Commanding Police Division (OCPD) Mr. Joseph Omijah rushed to the scene and with the help of members of the public managed to retrieve the three bodies from the 50 ft shaft and took them to Kakamega general Hospital mortuary. The OCPD urged area residents to keep off from the gold mines until proper safety measures are put in place. Protus Jamhuri a gold miner appealed to the government not to slap a ban on the exercise since it was the only source of income for area residents. Jamhuri further urged the government and development partners to assist the miners with modern equipment to ensure that they undertake the exercise safely. On a bad day, the miners at the ill-fated site collect a minimum of 10 grams of gold daily which earns them Sh. 25, 000 if sold locally in Kakamega town. Jamhuri said in 2008, the miners got a gold bar worth Sh. 12 million adding that the area was endowed with gold and with support from the government the miners stand to benefit. Gold mining in Kakamega District was started by a British company, Rosterman Gold Mines, incorporated and licensed in January 1935 to prospect and mine gold ores. With a capital of Ksh400,000, the company pitched camp three kilometers East of Kakamega. By the time it closed down operations in June 1952, it had milled about 655,000 tones of ore and produced over 259,000 ounces of gold, with a market value estimated to be about Ksh4 billion. Rosterman gold mines remains the biggest commercial firm to mine in Western Kenya. Since the exit of the British company, the interest in exploring gold deposits has been left for area residents and other small-scale miners. Experts believe that huge gold deposits and other minerals still remain embedded underneath the rocks in the province. This has renewed enthusiasm, and the once peaceful and sleepy village is now on a gold rush. Most of them have now underpinned all their hopes for better living on the elusive money-making gem. The renewed gusto in the trade has also reopened doors for companies who are now making camouflaged inroads into the gold project.