by Stephen Kwabena Effah

March 23, 2017


Researchers assess harmful effects of mercury use on small-scale miners

A research to assess the effect of excessive use of mercury in gold extraction on artisanal miners and residents of mining communities in Ghana is currently underway. The miners are said to be exposed to cancer-related diseases.

The Danish International Development Agency (DANIDA) is funding the 1.5 million-dollar research to assess the environmental and socio-economic impact of Artisanal Small-Scale Mining on the livelihood of communities.

Ghana’s artisanal small-scale mining sector continues to grow in size and significance.

The contribution of the sector to wealth creation, employment and the economy makes it one of the nation’s most important livelihood activities. Yet majority of miners in Ghana operate informally without the security of license.

The use of mercury, which is an efficient chemical in the process of extracting gold, poses a myriad of health risks to the miners as well as mining communities when it gets into the ecosystem.

It is against this background that DANIDA) is funding the project to assess the environmental and socio-economic impact of small-scale mining on the livelihoods.Six PhD students from the Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology with supervision by researchers from Arhaus University in Denmark and the KNUST will undertake the project

One of the 6 researchers, Rejoice Wireko-Gyebi, said their activity will focus on educating local miners on the dangers of using mercury.

“The issue of Artisanal Small-Scale Mining largely called galamsey has become a worrying situation in the country despite government’s interventions.

“Several projects to address the negative impact of the activity to miners and residents in mining communities have failed because of the use of top-down approach. We want to adopt the bottom-up approach to help address the situation.

“Mercury has a severe health implication because it has the tendency of damaging the central nervous system but the miners are using it without taking into consideration its effect. We want to engage the miners and residents in mining commutes to find out how the use of mercury has affected them and educate them on its dangers,” she said.

Rejoice is hopeful that government will take initiatives to implement some of their recommendations after they are done with their work.

Project coordinator, Dr Godfred Darko said the project has just commenced but there is cause for concern in some places that they have scanned so far as “people are found heating mercury in their rooms after adding it to the gold”.

Dr Darko indicated that, they are looking to having data across Ghana on how galamsey is impacting on the health of miners and persons living in mining communities.

The 5-year DANIDA funded research forms part of the Xenobiotic Substances and Heavy Metals in the Environment – A Threat to Health, Ecosystems and Development (SHEATHE) project.

By Ibrahim Abubakar|TV3|3news.com|Ghana

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