Make PlanetGold project permanently beneficial

The Environmental Pro­tection Agency (EPA), in partnership with UNDP, UNIDO and Global Environ­mental Facility, is implementing a five-year project, dubbed the PlanetGold, to minimise the use of mercury in mining. (See story on page 12).

It is on the theme ‘Advancing Formalisation and Mercury-free Gold in Ghana’ and will run into 2027.

The EPA says the $6.3-million project is aimed at minimising the risks posed by mercury use in the Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sub-sec­tor by ensuring sound chemical management and eliminating pollution hazards, as well as strengthening national and ju­risdictional capacity to enhance Ghana’s compliance with the Minamata Convention.

The Convention highlights the importance of maintaining and restoring wetlands across the world to help end mercury pollution.

This is a laudable project, especially because it is being implemented in the ASGM sub-sector, which is an informal area and lacks certain guidelines regarding environmental­ly-friendly practices or the actors there can ignore standard guidelines even if they exist.

We see the PlanetGold project as a supervision tool in disguise meant to regulate the negative impacts of the use of mercury in artisanal mining.

We, therefore, urge that even after the expiration of the project, there should be structures in place to consolidate the gains by con­stantly ensuring the proper use of chemicals that cannot be avoided in the ASGM sub-sector.

Considering the fact that Ghana is Africa’s larg­est producer of gold and artisanal mining sub-sector contributing a third of the country’s production, we will not be wrong to say that the ASGM is a pivot in the country’s economic survival and so must be guided and guarded.

We will be belabouring the point if we decide to discuss the advantages of the sub-sector but we cannot stop raising issues with its negative impacts because, they affect more people than those who directly benefit from it.

It is said that mercury-de­pendent ASGM is the largest source of mercury pollution on earth.

One literature source estimates that between 410 and 1400 tonnes of mercury are emitted through ASGM each year, accounting for 37 per cent of global mercury emissions.

Mercury use in mining can pollute the environment, including water, sediments and soil, and the human food chain, as well as that of animals.

Mercury is poisonous and can easily be absorbed by humans and animals.

Thus, besides its degrad­ing of the environment, mercury can have dire health consequences for both hu­mans and animals.

For instance, the artisanal miners can suffer neurological damage and other health issues, while the communities near the mines are also affected due to mercury contamination of water and soil and its subsequent ac­cumulation in food staples such as fish.

Sources state that whereas the uncontrolled use of mercu­ry has various negative effects on both adults and children, it is particularly dangerous for women of childbearing age and pregnant women because it can impair brain function, damage coordination and memory, and cause hearing loss, birth defects, and miscarriages.

For the negative impact of uncontrolled use of mercury in mining, we think the Plan­etGold project is timely and a game-changer and so must be made to succeed and be a reference point to check also the uncontrolled use of mercury in fishing and other relevant areas.

At the end of it all, we expect the PlanetGold to help make the whole country witness safer, cleaner, and more profitable small-scale gold mining and relevant areas in the country.

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