By Mercy Darko
The use of mercury in mining has been a source of worry for all, especially, regarding its harmful effects on humans and the environment. It is for this reason that the Funding for Peace, FFP, an NGO, based in the US in collaboration with the University of Mines and Technology, and WANEP, have been engaging stakeholders to help reduce mercury use in Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining in Ghana.
At a Media capacity building in Accra, the Programme Director of Funding for Peace, Wendy Wilson, said FFP has over the past four years sensitized miners to the harmful effects of the use of mercury, while encouraging them to adopt alternative technologies such as melting, to enhance responsible mining. So far, the response has been encouraging.
The use of mercury in mining especially among Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining, ASGM is very common. According to the UN Environment, they are estimated to be the largest source of global mercury emission (37%) in the environment. In Ghana, ASGM contributes about 52 percent of the total emission of mercury. Miners mix elemental liquid mercury with gold deposits and then burn off the mercury using kerosene torches to separate out the gold.
The toxic gases from this process are released into the air and atmosphere and settle into land and water bodies. In order to minimize the use of mercury, Funding For Peace with support from other stakeholders are engaging industry players on the need to adopt other innovative means to extract the gold. The Programmes Manager of FFP, Wendy Wilson said mercury does not only affect the miners but also contaminates the environment, causing health complications.
The FFP project is supporting capacity building in mercury-free and sustainable best practices and undertaking community sensitization in the Western North and Upper East Regions. Lessons learnt from these mining sites will be used to promote sustainable and safe ASGM practices. It will also be replicated and scaled up by the government and other partners throughout the country. Madam Wilson explains what has been done so far.
The engagement was to equip the media with the requisite knowledge to enhance their writing on the mining sector. The media were taken through Role of the Media in ASGM and Responsible and Effective Reporting among others.