Mercury damage causes concern

Government, in partnership with the World Bank, is set to conduct a study to assess the effects of mercury in gold mining communities.

Experts have expressed concern that artisanal and small-scale gold mining, which use mercury in processing, harm the flora, fauna, water and people’s health.

A study bringing together local and international environmentalists was recently produced and has motivated the impact assessment exercise, which will be conducted by officials from several government ministries and the Environmental Management Authority.

“Findings from the study will influence the next phase of engagement to develop a National Action Plan including the recommendations on legal and institutional actions on public policy issues to support the implementation of the Minamata Convention,” said the Senior Water Resources Specialist from the World Bank, Rafik Hirji.

The Minamata Convention on mercury is a global treaty to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury.

Signed in January 2013, it includes a ban on new mercury mines, phasing out existing ones, controlling measures on air emissions, and the international regulation of the informal sector for artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

The Deputy Director in the Ministry of Mines, Wonder Chigwida, said it was important for Zimbabwe to identify contaminated sites and come up with solutions on how to redress this. “As a country, we do not have an alternative for mercury and this is why the small-scale miners continue using it despite the effects on our environment and health,” he said.

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