Monday, October 9, 2017
Tanzania to scrutinize use of mercury in mining sites
THE government plans to conduct an inventory of all miners and scrutinize their work environment to control and phase out mercury use. The Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office, Union and Environment, Mr January Makamba, revealed the plan in an interview with the media recently in Dar es Salaam. The Minister also hinted on efforts by his office to ratify an international convention that addresses the adverse effects of mercury. The Minamata Convention wants signatories to the treaty to act in protecting the human health and environment against anthropogenic emissions, mercury releases and compounds. Mr Makamba said his office was almost done with the draft document before taking it to other decision-making bodies. “It was an uphill task that required serious consultations with many players in the sector but we have completed it. We are waiting for a date to present it to the cabinet,” said the minister. Tanzania is a signatory to the Convention since October 2013. Talking about the envisaged inventory, the minister said the list would help in identifying miners, their locations and chemicals they use in their mining operations. “For us to effectively enforce some control measures and phase out the use of hazardous chemicals, we must fully know who is operating where and with which chemicals,” he said. The minister charged that some miners believe that having Environmental Protection Plan (EPP) document is the only prerequisite for mining operations, snubbing the Environment Impact Assessment (EIA) report. “There are chances that some miners operate in remote areas where no government official has ever reached. These are the most dangerous because they are likely to be haphazardly using mercury,” he argued. The minister’s explanations come hardly three weeks after a newspaper in the United Kingdom, the Guardian, published a report about mercury serious health risks to women of child-bearing age. According to a study that covered 25 countries, women of child-bearing age from around the world have high level of mercury, a potent neurotoxin which can seriously harm unborn children. The study findings attribute the effects on women to their preference in fish eating, with concentration of mercury pollution found across the world’s oceans, much of which originating from coal burning. It was revealed in the study that the most extreme levels of mercury are found in women from sites in Indonesia where mercury is heavily used in small-scale gold mining and fish eating is common.