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Zimbabwe: NGO on a drive to empower small scale miners on the risks associated with mercury & cyanide

Author: Sukoluhle Ndlovu, Zimbabwe Daily , Published on: 30 July 2019

‘Zim Environmental Law Association on safe mercury use’ 27 July 2019

THE Zimbabwe Environmental Law Association (Zela) has partnered with stakeholders in the mining sector to ensure that small-scale miners have the required knowledge on how to handle substances such as mercury and cyanide, an official has said. This comes at a time when the Government through the Environmental Management Agency (Ema) is working tirelessly to eliminate the use of mercury, especially in the mining sector as the element is toxic to both humans and animals. In an interview, Zela programmes officer Ms Nyaradzo Mutonhori said her organisation was aiming to eradicate the use of mercury in mining operations as it has detrimental effects to the environment and human life.

“We have partnered United Nations Development Programme (UNDP), Ministry of Mines (and Mining Development) and Ema and our aim is to reduce the use of mercury as it has devastating health and environmental impacts. We are working hand-in-hand with Ema in making sure that instead of just fining non-complying miners, they must incorporate capacity development of miners thus to say they should also educate miners on the dangers of mercury and cyanide and other policies governing the environment,” she said. Late last year, Ema embarked on awareness campaigns to educate small-scale miners after it emerged that very few miners had an appreciation of negative effects of cyanide and mercury and many of them did not have safety clothing.

Ema senior environmental publicity officer Mr Rambwayi Mapako was quoted saying more than 50 tonnes of mercury is used annually in gold processing. “Over 50 tonnes of mercury is used on a yearly basis in gold processing, and studies carried out revealed that gold stamp milling centres were the main centres of mercury pollution. Studies have shown that 70 percent of miners involved with amalgam burning were poisoned with mercury, while those not directly working with the chemical like women and children were found with traces of mercury in their bodies thereby exposing breast-feeding infants,” he said. Zimbabwe is yet to ratify the Minamata Convention of 2013 which places a ban on the use of mercury and mercury products. 

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