The University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa, has been promoting different methods of processing gold ore without using mercury. The University had developed direct smelting method known in local parlance as “Sikabohyia” which extracted gold ore without mercury and ensure the safety of users.

It is also promoting retorting process which allowed the mercury that had been used to be collected back to prevent the pollution of the environment. In addition, it had proposed three pond purification system where miners were supposed to drill three ponds so that the water washed from the sluice board would have a receiving point.

Professor Richard Amankwah, a Metallurgist at the Minerals Engineering Department of the University, made this known in an interview with the Ghana News Agency in Tarkwa during a sustainable mining training programme for small-scale miners and media practitioners. He said the Ministry of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation was coordinating with the Council for Scientific and Industrial Research to produce 500 direct smelting kits with a furnace and thereafter  train the miners on how to use the device.

He said Ghana had ratified the Minamata Convention on mercury which would completely phase-out the use of mercury in the country for mineral extraction by 2025.

He, therefore, advised small-scale miners to start using the mercury-free method or direct smelting kits now so that they would become familiar with it.

The training formed part of the implementation of the Multilateral Mining Integrated Project (MMIP) by the government to ensure mining benefited the society instead of destroying the environment.

He said the training for the small-scale miners was relevant because it would enhance their knowledge on the right methods for mineral extraction and storage of the tailings to prevent environmental pollution.

He noted that there were about one million artisanal miners operating in the country therefore more training programmes would be required to cover most of them.

It would also enhance the knowledge of media practitioners on the right terminology to use in reporting mining issues and also carry the right information to the public, he noted.

“Sometimes the information that goes out are full of sensationalism which gives an indication that the person reporting does not understand the issues very well,” he said.

He said understanding the mining industry and enforcing the laws governing it would help in ensuring compliance.

He disclosed that the Minerals Commission through a World Bank facility and the Australian Government provided financial support to the University to organise similar training for about 500 miners in 2013.

Responding to pollution of water bodies by illegal miners when processing mineral ore, Prof. Amankwah condemned methods whereby some small-scale miners deliberately washed their tailings directly into rivers.

He said although the law allowed miners to draw certain amount of water from rivers into mine pond, they were supposed to manage the water in the pond to prevent spillage into the environment.

Responding to a question on what the country should do to maximise benefit from less exploited mineral resources such as columbite tantalite and salt, Prof. Amankwah said government should create awareness, especially among the business community.

He said most business men and women were into buying and selling which limited the expansion of the economy for employment creation.

“I normally encourage entrepreneurship and so I often tell my students that anyone who wants to go into mineral-related job or industrial minerals, I will be a free consultant for a year so that the person will establish the business,” he said.

About one million people are involved in the chain of mining activities and other supplementary services, including foreigners.

The massive exploitation of the environment such as the destruction of farmlands and pollution of water bodies thus, prompted the establishment of a joint Police/Military taskforce to end the menace of galamsay once and for all.

Source: Ghana News Agency

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