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Zimbabwe consuming an average of 24 tons of mercury per annum

 By Lucy Tandi – Tuesday 27 July 2021

HARARE (Mining Index) – ZIMBABAWE is estimated to be consuming an average of 24 tons of mercury (Hg) per annum during gold processing.

Mercury is a naturally occurring metallic element, which at room temperature and in its pure form is a silvery-white liquid. Hg has been widely used in gold mining.

Environmentalists have in recent years been advocating for the adoption of mercury-free gold extraction methods, friendly to the environment.

“Last year, government ratified the Minamata Convention. We are working on a plan with regards to the Minamata Convention,”

“The National Action Plan revealed that an average of 24 tonnes of mercury are used by gold miners per annum. Government is now working towards reducing the use of mercury by gold processors. We are working to reduce the effects of mercury into the atmosphere.’

“Mercury is a controlled substance. It is not banned. It is still in use” said Rangarirayi Mhazo, Principal Policy Planning and Coordination Officer in the Ministry of Mines and Mining Development during the Delve Exchange program whose agenda is to share experiences on how Artisanal and Small-scale Miners (ASM) are coping with the Covid-19 pandemic.

Blessing Hungwe, a leading miner was in April this year appointed to coordinate the Artisanal and Small-Scale Miners (ASM) Delve Project for the Anglophone Africa.

Todays Delve Exchange program was attended by participants from Zimbabwe, Kenya, Ghana and Australia.

The Minamata Convention on Mercury is a global agreement aimed at reducing mercury pollution, which recognises risks of using mercury in gold mining, calling nations to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate mercury use by promoting mercury-free methods of gold mining such as panning, sluicing, shaking tables, spiral concentrators, vortex concentrators, centrifuges, magnets, flotation and direct smelting.

Zimbabwe is classified in the list of top 10 countries using mercury in gold production.

In June2020, Zimbabwe Miners Federation (ZMF) chief executive officer Wellington Takavarasha revealed that a maximum of 66 tonnes of mercury is estimated to be used by the ASM sector during gold production per annum during peak mining periods while a minimum of 22 tonnes of Hg is being utilised during less peak periods.

He added that 1-3 grams of mercury is lost to the environment for every gram of gold produced.

Dangers of mercury to human health include loss of peripheral vision, lack of coordination, impairment of speech, hearing, walking;  muscle weakness and insomnia. Mercury also affects foetus when the exposure to pregnant women and affects new babies. ENDS//


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