Micodepro ASM

Solidaridad East & Central Africa

Micodepro (Migori Community Development Group) was formally registered as an Artisanal Small-Scale Mining Organization (ASMO) in 1999. The mine is located in Suna West Sub-county (Migori) in Kenya and has 11 female and 22 male employees. Solidaridad’s support has helped Micodepro to begin operating as a more responsible mine. Micodepro was the first Kenyan ASMO to receive Fairtrade certification, which was one of the major highlights so far. Solidaridad has played a significant role in enabling the mine to comply with this standard. The process has entailed the interpretation of the Fairtrade standards, inspection, flagging gaps and providing guidance on how to bridge them. Micodepro is part of a Comic Relief-funded project in East Africa.

Previously, the ASMO's site did not have fundamental machinery. However, they have recently acquired machinery such as a winch, generator and compressor. This has saved the mine a lot of expenses as it no longer has to rent such equipment.

In the years before Solidaridad’s project, the mining communities of Masara, Osiri and Nyatike, all situated in Migori county, were riddled with cases of collapsed mines, carbon monoxide suffocation in shafts, and injuries due to lack of protective equipment. Micodepro was a loosely organized and unreputable ASMO characterized by improper governance and financial unviability. It was also limited only to the local gold market and had little if no engagement with policy makers.

However, Micodepro has undergone some outstanding changes as a result of Solidaridad’s interventions. Once the project gained momentum, Micodepro also played a huge role in transmitting good practices to the neighbouring Osiri and Nyatike mines. Today, there are fewer fatalities resulting from incidents at these mines. This can be largely attributed to Solidaridad’s work with Micodepro. Solidaridad has trained the mines on the importance and techniques of timbering to prevent collapsing mine shafts, the use of submersible pumps rather than diesel generators (which prevents the accumulation of carbon monoxide in shafts), and the provision of protective equipment to avoid injuries.

A hired worker busy with the final steps of extracting gold using mercury. Hired labourers sometimes request that instead of receiving monetary payment, they are allowed to sell the gold obtained from the extracted ore.

Better corporate and internal group governance

Solidaridad has conducted capacity building exercises through field visits, tailor-made trainings, and follow-up exercises to ensure that training lessons are properly implemented. Following these exercises, Micodepro now has functional offices in place for the chairman, the control officer, the secretary, and the treasurer, who cooperate with each other to run the day-to-day operations of the group.

Better financial management

Thanks to the training in financial management and bookkeeping skills provided by Solidaridad, Micodepro is now proficient in its specialized management and financial operations. Follow-up and remedial exercises are also conducted regularly to ensure proper practices and maximum adoption of these lessons.

Micodepro's new ore processing site at Kolongo in Masara (Migori), Kenya

Good relationship with local government

In the past years, being an artisanal miner meant being sidelined and discriminated compared to miners from larger mines. However, Solidaridad has managed to build a good relationship between Micodepro and the local government offices by helping the ASMO to fulfill certain requirements. For instance, Solidaridad has guided Micodepro with becoming formally registered as an ASMO, acquiring a mining license, and paying various prescribed fees for government services. A good mutual understanding and a positive relation have been established between the government and Micodepro.

Cleaner and safer mining alternatives and technologies

Through field visits and inspections over the years, it has been possible to identify destructive and unsustainable mining technologies being used by Micodepro. Whole ore amalgamation and the use of mercury, for example, were very expensive, time consuming and destructive to human health and the environment. However, Solidaridad has facilitated  Micodepro with adopting modern, cleaner and more sustainable techniques, such as sluicing, which reduces the amount of ore to be subjected to mercury to a very small gold concentrate. Micodepro has also begun using borax, which is a mercury-free technique. It is a safer and healthier method which is gradually substituting mercury use.

Sluicing ponds holding mercury free tailing. The water overflowing from the ponds drains to ponds situated on a lower elevation and later gets recycled, thereby cutting down expenses of buying water during the dry season.

Better health conditions

Solidaridad has provided personal protective equipment to miners at Micodepro, including helmets, goggles, nose masks, ear muffs, gloves, overalls and gumboots. The personal health of these miners is no longer compromised, which contributes to responsible production of gold.

Better access to international markets

Fairtrade certification means that Micodepro’s gold now qualifies to be sold as Fairtrade gold on the international market. The remaining challenge is finalizing the design of a workable export model which would enable the gold from Micodepro to be shipped out to the more lucrative international market.

Micodepro's new ore processing site at Kolongo in Masara (Migori), Kenya

Better knowledge of market opportunities

Solidaridad has helped the miners to learn about their position in the global supply chain of gold. This learning process has been beneficial for Micodepro with establishing their position and role, and recognizing good market opportunities. Micodepro can now keep track of prices in the London Bullion Market and therefore knows when the prices are high or low. This is useful information for the mine to decide whether to retain its produced gold (when the gold prices on the market are low), and when it should better sell it (when the gold prices are high).

Peer-to-peer learning

Courtesy of the exchange visits among miners organized by Solidaridad, there has been constructive peer-to-peer interaction. Micodepro has also been privileged to visit and learn good practices from miners who employ the latest gold concentration technologies.

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