The Executive Chairman of EON3 Group, Richard Adjei Mensah Ofori Atta, has called for urgent action to stop the application of mercury and other dangerous chemicals in gold mining since the practice is harmful to human and the environment.
Instead, he stressed the need for miners, especially, those in the artisanal and small-scale sector to embrace new environmentally-friendly mining methods. He made the call when he spoke on “ Epa Hoa Daben “ a socio-political afternoon talk show on Happy FM in Accra on Monday , May 1, 2023.
For two hours, the EON3 Group Executive Chairman spoke to the host of the show, Don Kwabena Prah Junior on matters relating to“ Tackling the illegal mining menace” and “ Promoting Responsible Gold Mining for Sustainable Development.”
Cancers, other dangers
Mercury is an internationally banned and harmful chemical. According to the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP), it is “one of the most dangerous chemicals to human health and the environment.”
The World Health Organization (WHO) says the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining is particularly hazardous, and the health effects on vulnerable populations are enormous.
“The inhalation of mercury vapour can produce harmful effects on the nervous, digestive and immune systems, lungs and kidneys, and may be fatal. The inorganic salts of mercury are corrosive to the skin, eyes and gastrointestinal tract, and may induce kidney toxicity if ingested,” says the WHO.
Other studies link mercury exposure to cancer risk among people in artisanal and small scale mining communities.
The EON3 Group Executive Chairman who just returned from the Organization of Economic Cooperation and Development (OECD) Forum on Responsible Mineral Supply Chains, in Paris, said communities near the mines are mostly heavily affected by mercury emissions as it causes both physical and mental disabilities, especially, among children.
Besides, the practice leads to contamination of water sources and soil, and subsequent accumulation in food staples such as fish.
Environmentally friendly practices
The EON3 Group Executive Chairman urged gold mining companies to invest in environmentally-friendly methods in their activities.
He welcomed the commissioning of some Gold Kacha plants by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in 2022, explaining that the deployment of the mercury-free technology which is environmentally friendly will protect the country’s water bodies, mining communities and the citizenry from the harmful effects of mercury.
He bemoaned the massive destruction galamsey is causing to water bodies and lands including forest reserves and said the nation cannot afford to look on while the destruction continues.
He, therefore urged all Ghanaians to see illegal mining as a national crisis and join hands to overcome it.
The EON3 Group Executive Chairman also spoke against the politicization of the galamsey fight saying the development is counterproductive.
He quizzed: “Can we continue to do one thing at a time and expect different results ? “
Going forward , he said it will be refreshing to see, for instance, the political parties working together to address the menace. “ I will want to see the NPP and NDC join forces to fight galamsey. President Akufo-Addo put his presidency on the line, and we cannot disgrace him. Building a country is not one person’s responsibility. It should be all hands on deck .”
In answer to a question, the EON3 Group Executive Chairman stated that much as successive governments were keen on battling illegal mining, they found it difficult to find a way out of the problem.
He emphasized that there is every indication that the war against galamsey can best be fought using the traditional authorities, who own the lands.
In that case, he suggested that the Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, be given the responsibility to lead the national fight against illegal mining.
“Otumfuo should be the strategic fulcrum while other traditional rulers support him. With the nation united behind the Asantehene , I’m certain that we shall overcome this canker of illegal mining, “ he said.
Furthermore , he said Otumfuo has a track record as a strong anti-galamsey advocate, and his clout could be an advantage for a national battle against the canker.
He added: “Otumfuo’s voice has been heard on galamsey perhaps more stronger than anyone in the country and it will not be out of place for the nation to put him in charge of this all-important national issue.”
Even more refreshing, the EON3 Group Executive Chairman said, is that since the galamsey menace escalated, the Asantehene’s comments on the matter have been dominated by offering pragmatic solutions.
Explaining, he said at various fora, including the Ashanti Regional House of Chiefs meeting in Kumasi on October 14, 2022, and the Regional Consultative Dialogue on Small Scale Mining in Kumasi in May 2021, His Majesty did not only voice out strongly against illegal mining but went ahead to proffer workable solutions.
“He also put forward solutions anytime high-ranking Ghanaian and foreign officials visited him at the Manhyia Palace. This goes to show he is the right person to lead the national fight,” he said.
Responsible mining crucial
The EON3 Group Executive Chairman also spoke extensively on responsible mining, pointing out that, it is the way to go to restore normalcy in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector and ensure sustainable socio-economic development.
Pointing out that mining activities in the country are not new and indeed would continue deep into the future, he said what is needed is to ensure that they are done responsibly.
“In the international market, gold traders are taking a serious view about mining activities that leave negative impacts on the environment. Africa, therefore, needs to mine responsibly. Africa must take the right steps and ensure that mining is done responsibly,” he said.