Artisanal and small scale gold miners will have to stick to mercury as a formula to extract free gold for now despite health concerns being raised around its use.
Zimbabwe Miners Federation spokesperson Dosman Mangisi said there is need for Government to pto provide funding earmarked for education of small scale miners.
“Currently they is no substitute, though fomulars of extracting free gold are available. There is need of unveiling a funding by gvt and try educate the miners and of most important training them.
” It is a stakeholder engagement which also needs EMA on board. We have long stated the need to impart skills towards the recovery of free gold,” said Mangisi.
Artisanal and small-scale gold miners, out to extract as much gold as possible and make quick profits, have over the years resorted to using mercury in extracting the precious mineral and, in the process, exposed both the environment and humans to health risks.
World leaders agreed through the Minamata Convention that it was imperative to protect human health and the environment from the anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds, according to Environmental Management Agency (EMA).
Through the years, deliberations continued and finally in October 2013, the Minamata Convention was opened for signing at the Conference of Plenipotentiaries which was held in Japan. Zimbabwe is a signatory to this.
Article 3 of the Minamata Convention on mercury supply sources and trade states that the chemical’s export and import shall be through consent from the receiving party.
While mercury is a naturally occurring element in the environment, it was very hazardous.
Mercury is a naturally occurring element that is found in the air, water and soil. However, human activity is the main cause of mercury releases, particularly coal-fired power stations, residential coal burning for heating and cooking, industrial processes, waste incinerations and mining for mercury, gold and other metals.
Exposure to mercury causes serious health problems and threatens child development in the uterus and early in life. Mercury may have toxic effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, and lungs, kidneys, skin and eyes.
Mercury is considered by the World Health Organisation (WHO) as one of the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
Severe neurological effects were already seen in animals in the notorious case from Minamata, Japan, prior to the recognition of the human poisonings, where birds experienced severe difficulty in flying and exhibited other grossly abnormal behaviour.
These effects caused countries to come together and negotiate the Minamata Convention on mercury which calls for a ban on new mercury mines, the phasing-out of existing ones, control measures on air emissions, and the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale gold mining.
The Minamata Convention has been signed by 128 countries so far, Zimbabwe being one of the first countries to sign it in October 2013 in Japan. The government is calling for a reduction in the use of mercury particularly in artisanal and small-scale mining.