Government has estimated US$400million as the amount needed to dredge and clean the heavy mercury content from the Ankobra River in the Western Region, due to the activities of illegal small-scale mining.
This followed an assessment of the river’s turbidity level by a private research firm, which was commissioned by government last year.
Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large numbers of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in air. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.
Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation who announced this at the Meet-the-Press Series in Accra on Tuesday, said reclaiming the mined areas will be costly since it involves about 10 percent of the country’s land area.
He said between February and April last year, the Ghana Water Company (GWC) could not process raw water from water treatment plants at Osino, Sekyere-Hemang and Daboase because of the water’s increasing turbidity.
He said, however, that operation of Operation Vanguard is yielding some positive response, and some of the water-bodies can now be treated for consumption by the GWC.
He said intelligence reports gathered by the ministry revealed that eight mining firms were secretly involved in illegal mining operations and discharging the waste into water-bodies, thereby costing the GWC huge sums of money to purify raw water for consumption.
He said before the ban on small-scale mining is finally lifted, government will conduct a baseline survey to examine the level of pollution in water-bodies, mining communities and fish stock, which will help the nation to source funding from a global environment facility for the reclamation exercise.
Commenting on newly-discovered mineral resources in the country, the minister said there are high deposits of lithium in the Volta and Western Regions, which can be used to produce mobile device batteries.
“We allow people outside to exploit the lithium and export it in the raw state.
“We should have an arrangement whereby a percentage of the lithium is processed here, so that we can produce batteries for our own use,” he said.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said government has drafted a Zero Plastic Policy, and that after all the necessary consultations have been done the nation will have a plastic policy to manage the plastic-waste phenomenon.
Regarding the call for a complete ban of plastic materials in the country, the minister explained that initial consultation and study into that idea had proven it would not be feasible for the time being; and so, government will wait until the policy is adopted to guide the way forward.
“It will not be a wholesale ban… I’m not going ahead of the policy, but I think that it would be prudent to start with a ban of carrier-bags; so that when you go to a shop, you can keep your things in a cotton bag,” he said in response to a question by journalists.
The minister said as part of efforts to address the plastic-waste menace, there are already some public-private sector initiatives wherein plastics are being used to manufacture pavement stones and plastic blocks for building and road construction.