The Environmental Management Agency (EMA) is formulating a road map to reduce the use of mercury by artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), an official has said.The World Health Organisation (WHO) considers mercury as one of the top 10 chemicals of major public health concern.
The effects of the chemical 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.
Of the 128 countries that have signed so far, Zimbabwe is one of the first signatories, signing it in October 2013 in Japan.
Speaking on the sidelines of workshop on the development of a national action plan for the ASGM and implementation of the Minamata Convention on mercury in Zimbabwe, EMA Spokesperson Steady Kangata said they were deliberating around the reduction of mercury and its use in an efficient manner.
“If it is not possible to eliminate, we are working with the miners so that they fully appreciate and use mercury efficiently. We also need to have a road map pertaining on where we are moving to as a country and this comes as a result of the National Action Plan that we are supposed to develop,” he said.
“We also need to discuss on the possibilities of having mercury free technologies which will lead to the ultimate elimination of mercury in the ASGM sector,” he said.
Mr Kangata said once we have the small-scale miners on board who are the biggest users of mercury in the country, and if they reduce the amount of mercury then we are moving towards ratification of the Minamata Convention.
“Ratification is not done outside of Parliament but it has to agree on the tenets of the Minamata Convention and depending on the realities of the country, then they can say yes, we are agreeing.”
He noted that the workshop was to engage the ASGM.
“Not that we are pushing for a ban but we want them to go on with their livelihood option. This economic activity of ASGM also contributes to the Gross Domestic Product of the country while at the same time enhancing peoples livelihoods options.”
Mr Kangata said the National Action Plan that was going to be launched would be multi-sectoral involving the small-scale miners, the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development, other relevant Government departments and civic organisations.
EMA is confident that with guidance from the United Nations Institute for Training and Research, the country will reach a point where there would be efficient use of mercury while artisanal and small-scale miners contributed to the Gross Domestic Product as well as
protected the environment. – New Ziana.