The use of mercury in gold refining has environmental and health implications today and the future, Dr Jackson Adiyiah Nyantakyi, the Ahafo Regional Director, Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), has reechoed.
Dr Nyantakyi in a presentation dubbed, Greening the ‘smooth’ business to address environmental and health ramifications, said poor business environment had dire health and environmental consequences.
He made the disclosure at a sensitisation workshop for about 30 artisans and small – scale miners (ASM) across the Ahafo Region, at Goaso, the Regional capital, on Tuesday.
The Regional Director noted that EPA’s routine monitoring activities and environmental surveillance in the Ahafo Region had revealed some structures purported to be housing processing of mined tailings in some parts of the area.
Dr Nyantakyi indicated that sources of mercury emission included volcanic activity, weathering of rocks, water body movement, forest fires, biological processes and intentional usage of mercury.
“Mercury is easily absorbed into the human blood stream through the skin, inhaled into the lungs and digestive system, absorbed by fishes, micro – organisms and other food chain,” he stated.
Dr Nyantakyi said skin rashes, body discoloration, rough skin, body defects on babies and other health implications, were the signs of mercury absorption into human system saying that let’s come together to reduce the impacts drastically.
He added that ASM provided employment to an estimated 1,000,000 people and accounted for about 30 per cent of Ghana’s total gold output stressing that it must be sustainably undertaken to provide social and economic development.
The Regional Director entreated ASM and other workers who come into contact with mercury, to minimise the impacts through the use of nose masks, goggles, ear plugs, Wellington boots, hand gloves and protective clothes.
Dr Nyantakyi reiterated that managing mercury waste in an environmentally sound manner to reduce exposure to humans and animals, treating waste water, Minerals Commission and EPA’s effective regularisation were the best solution to the problem.
“We can address the situation through environmental education and awareness creation in communities, churches, schools, mosques and adoption of mercury – free technologies such as retort method in trapping mercury for reuse,” he said.
Mr Hamza Mubarak, on behalf of the participants, expressed gratitude to the Ahafo Regional Directorate of EPA, for the sensitisation on the impacts of their occupation on the environment.
FROM EMMANUEL ADU GYAMFI, GOASO