A boost for mercury-free processing technologies in Ghana

Solidaridad, in partnership with Pact, is providing five mines with mercury-free processing technologies as part of efforts to support artisanal and small-scale gold miners in Ghana to produce mercury-free gold.

The five mines — Dakete, Obeng, Bazuri, Agya Pa Ye and Beaver — were selected to pitch for their share of 60,000 dollars’ worth of investment in mercury-free processing technology. Each mine presented to a panel of expert judges in a format similar to the TV shows ‘Shark-Tank’ or ‘Dragons-Den’. The judges were drawn from the Minerals Commission, the University of Mines and Technology and the Women in Mining Association.

The initiative is part of the implementation of the “Promoting Mercury-Free Mining in Ghana” (Pro-MFM) project, a three-year (2021-2023) initiative funded by the United States Department of State and implemented by Pact and Solidaridad

The aim of the project is to reduce the use of mercury in Ghana’s artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector through education, the introduction of better technology, strengthened equipment supply chains and demonstrating business incentives for mercury-free gold production.

A representative of the US Department of State interacting with one of the miners at the event

Speaking at the awards ceremony, Yaw Britwum Opoku, programme manager for Responsible Mining at Solidaridad in West Africa, said the mines would receive equipment such as Gold Katcha, Gold Konka, Gold Cube and Gas Fueled Smelter, and would be supported to test the mercury-free processing systems to produce gold, which could be marketed as mercury-free.

He noted the five mines will serve as demonstration sites for other mines in their districts and regions to learn from.

He indicated that despite widespread knowledge of mercury being poisonous and contributing negatively to community, health and the environment, cleaner and safer alternatives have been slow to take hold because most miners are either not aware of these technologies or find them to be expensive, difficult to use, and have slow processing time.

In order to ensure that the majority of miners transition from the use of mercury to mercury-free processing technologies, we would like to appeal to donor organizations to support research organizations, such as the University of Mines and Technology, to develop mercury-free mining technologies that are affordable, portable, easy to use and with relatively high ore recovery rates.

Yaw Britwum Opoku, Responsible Mining PROGRAMME MANAGER, Solidaridad, West Africa

Dr James McQuilken, senior programme officer specialized in artisanal and small-scale mining, said the mercury-free equipment would also help improve productivity and recovery rates, increasing the profitability of the mines and incomes for workers.

Additionally, the project will be supporting the implementation of the Government of Ghana’s National Action Plan, which has been developed to fulfill Ghana’s commitment to the Minamata Convention on Mercury. 

In this regard, James said the intervention will strengthen stakeholder engagement directed at achieving Minamata Convention obligations and provide support to gold mining entities in understanding, testing and investing in mercury-free processing systems, which will be installed with technical oversight from the project to reduce the use and emission of mercury into the environment.

Prof Richard Amankwah, Vice Chancellor of the University of Mines and Technology speaking at the event

The initiative will also raise public awareness and build institutional capacity to achieve mercury-free artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

For his part, Wilson Zoogah, Senior Principal Inspector of Mines at the Minerals Commission, applauded Pact and Solidaridad for the initiative and called for multi-sectoral support in ending illegal small-scale mining.

We appreciate the dangers associated with the continuous mining of our natural resources illegally. Therefore, any initiative to ensure that we mine in a way that does not  destroy the environment is highly welcomed.

Wilson Zoogah, Senior Principal Inspector of Mines, Minerals Commission