Ghana government says it’s committed to promoting mercury-free gold mining extraction

Madam Ophelia Mensah Hayford, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology, and Innovation (MESTI), says the government is committed to minimising the footprint of Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM).

The government will therefore promote community mining and mercury-free gold mining extraction and processing techniques in pursuit of the objective.

The Minister said this at the Africa Environmental Health and Pollution Management Programme (AEHPMP) Regional Dialogue on Mercury and E-waste Pollution Management in Accra.

The AEHPMP is a comprehensive programme aimed at reducing environmental health risks related to harmful chemicals and waste by strengthening institutional partnerships and building capacities in pollution management in selected African countries including Kenya, Senegal, Tanzania, Zambia, and Ghana.

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) is implementing the AEHPMP through a Grant Agreement between Ghana and the World Bank.

The event is jointly organised with the support of the MESTI and funded by the Global Environment Facility under its AEHPMP led by the World Bank.

She said according to the Global Mercury Assessment of 2018, mercury use in ASGM was documented to be the single largest source of mercury pollution on earth, far exceeding the combined mercury emission from coal combustion plants, large-scale industrial mining, and others.

Madam Hayford informed that that mercury emission from anthropogenic sources was estimated at 2,220 metric tonnes with 16 per cent contribution by Sub-Saharan Africa of which ASGM accounted for 80 per cent.

The Minister said according to section 96 of the Minerals and Mining Act 2006, Act 703, the use of mercury in the ASGM sub-sector was permitted and that it was legal to purchase mercury for small-scale mining in Ghana.

She said however, the improper handling, storage, use and disposal of mercury had resulted in some documented cases of mercury intoxication and poisoning among miners and non-miners in ASGM communities.

“The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, lungs and kidneys,” she added.

The Minister said the Global E-Waste Monitor reported a record of 62 million tonnes of e-waste produced in 2022 and less than a quarter was collected and recycled in an environmentally sound manner.

She added that consequently, the Government of Ghana had a vision of implementing an integrated and environmentally-sound management solution to improve the collection, transportation, and safe disposal or recycling of e-waste.

Mr John Kingsley Krugu, Executive Director, EPA, said Ghana was one of the top ten gold producing countries in the world and currently, the largest gold producing country in Africa, stating that available data indicated that ASGM contributed over 30 per cent of total gold production in Ghana.

He said mercury in Ghana was imported largely for the ASGM sub-sector, accounting for 80 per cent of total mercury imports which was among the reasons Ghana joined the rest of the Global community to sign on to the Minamata Convention.

The Executive Director said the Agency had held various engagements with miners, mining communities, local government authorities, traditional authorities, civil society, media, policy makers, government institutions, among others, to raise awareness on the dangers of mercury to human health and the environment.

“Like mercury management, significant progress has been made in e-waste management, including the development of a communication strategy to guide and shape the messaging for our engagement with various stakeholders along the e-waste value chain,” he added.

Mr Robert Taliercio, Country Director of Ghana, World Bank, said pollution was a leading cause of death in other countries, stating that an estimated 23 per cent of total deaths in the developing world were attributable to environmental factors and pollution.

He said with the help of United Nation agencies, several countries developed a national action plan to reduce or eliminate mercury from the sector.

“This programme and others provide an excellent opportunity to start tackling the challenges on the knowledge policy and technology front, including those related to illegal and illicit trade mercury in the region,” the Country Director added.

Source: GNA

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