President Nana Akufo-Addo has inaugurated some 100 new sets of mercury-free gold processing equipment intended to curb environmental pollution and land degradation arising from the wide use of mercury and other harmful chemicals by illegal small-scale miners in the country.
The new technology, comprising crusher, miller, concentrator, and upgrading smelting system, known as ‘Gold-Kacha’, with its operation, will help to eliminate the use of mercury to extract gold from the ore.
This follows the adoption of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which enjoins state parties to take measures to reduce and where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale mining.
Gold-Kacha will significantly help to protect the health and lives of small-scale miners, and the natural environment, and above all, protect the population from the debilitating hazards of mercury use.
The uncontrolled use and exposure to mercury, aside from contaminating water bodies and destroying aquatic life, can also result in damage to the nervous, digestive, and immune systems.
Speaking at the ceremony to inaugurate the equipment, the President recognised the importance of protecting the natural ecosystem from pollution, thereby contributing to the global climate action.
Recognising the contribution of the mining sector to the national economy, he added that the small-scale mining sector alone accounts for about 40 percent of gold exports, and provides job opportunities and sources of livelihood and income to many people.
“We have been for some time, Africa’s largest gold producing country as a result of the contribution made by the small-scale mining sector,” he stated.
However, he said the sector has been a major vehicle of environmental pollution and land degradation, including the threat posed to life by use of mercury in the recovering of gold and its subsequent release into the eco-system.
The President added that banning small-scale mining cannot be the solution to this challenge. It is against this backdrop that he said several efforts have been made to ensure a viable, responsible and sustainable small-scale mining sector.
To this end, he said this new equipment – which extracts the gold from the ore without the use of mercury – introduced by Commodity Monitor Limited, is to improve the operations of small-scale miners.
It will also improve gold recovery to more than 90 percent, and save the environment from toxic mercury contamination, which negatively affects the environment and aquatic life, the President added.
The Chief Executive Officer of Commodity Monitor Limited, Stephen Yeboah, also said the use of chemicals in mining at any level does not affect only those directly involved, but also the larger society.
“Mercury puts miners and their communities at risk of impacts from permanent brain damage to seizures, vision and hearing loss, and delayed childhood development,” he stated.
These irresponsible mining activities, he observed, are also a threat to the country’s forest resources and natural landscapes, saying: “In 2018 alone, the country saw an alarming 60 percent decrease in primary rainforests”.
Also speaking at the ceremony, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Jinapor, noted several measures have been taken by the ministry to address illegal mining in the country, while recognising that there is more to be done.
Among other initiatives, he said, the ministry is undertaking a thorough vetting process to validate multiple applications for small-scale mining licenses, compiled by the Ghana National Association of Small-Scale Miners.
Also, the Community Mining Schemes has been revamped, and an operational manual has been developed to promote responsible and environmentally-sound small-scale mining, he added.
The policies and strategies being implemented by the ministry, according to Mr. Jonapor, are to promote viable businesses for Ghanaians who intend to work in the mining industry while protecting the environment.
This is part of the broader vision of government to make Ghana the mining hub of Africa, where all mining and mining-related activities from exploration to downstream production, and from innovation to research, will be centred.
The ministry is committed to ensuring a viable, responsible, sustainable, and environmentally-sound small-scale mining sector that contributes, meaningfully, to the national economy.