Small-scale miners have been urged to adopt the mercury-free rock processing technology known as GoldKacha, so as to mitigate the negative environmental impacts associated with traditional mining methods.
The call comes as illegal mining activities have begun to take a toll on the environment, posing risks to both citizens and ecosystems.
The GoldKacha technology, introduced and endorsed by government, stands as a secure solution to environmental degradation caused by illegal miners.
Launched by President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo last year, the mercury-free mining equipment developed by Commodity Monitor Limited – a Ghanaian commodity trading logistics and research company – has proven to be both viable and environmentally friendly.
Speaking at a stakeholders’ workshop at Tarkwa in the Western Region, Chief Executive Officer-Commodity Monitor Limited, Stephen Yeboah, emphasised the positive impact of GoldKacha on responsible small-scale mining.
The workshop was organised for artisanal small-scale miners (ASM) as critical stakeholders across all mining districts, to facilitate a multi-sectorial and interdisciplinary discourse, dialogue and sharing ideas.
It was held to share experiences on how existing and new technologies, innovations can be leveraged to formalise and sanitise the artisanal and small-scale mining sector, in a way that satisfies responsible mining principles and practices.
The interactions focused on how artisanal mining operators can be provided with the necessary financial and technical assistance to adopt efficient and clean mining technologies, which will not only improve gold productivity but also minimise – or at best eradicate – the negative environmental impact of their activities.
Participants discussed the health impact from chemicals used in gold recovery, the efficiency of mercury-free gold processing technology and its functions, and addressing the negative environmental as well as health effects of small-scale mining operations across the country.
Mr. Yeboah highlighted the unprecedented environmental and social problems caused by some small-scale and illegal miners, leading to soil-degradation and the destruction of cocoa and other arable farms.
The pollution of rivers and water-bodies, essential sources of drinking water due to the uncontrolled use of mercury, cyanide and other chemicals prompted the introduction of GoldKacha as a solution.
“The mercury-free machine has capacity to recover a minimum 90 percent of gold gravity recoverable without the use of harmful chemicals – in contrast to traditional methods recovering less than 20 percent of the ore content,” Mr. Yeboah said.
He said Ghana, as a signatory to the Minamata Convention, aims at eliminating mercury use in mining and sees GoldKacha as a critical tool for implementing the convention’s principles.
He emphasised the importance of prioritising human health; stating that the mercury-free technology is crucial for safeguarding the environment, and well-being of individuals who might be exposed to contaminated environments.
The gold mining sector, he said, has long been a major contributor to Ghana’s economy, remaining the highest export earner with US$6.6billion in export earnings for 2022.
“The artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector’s contribution to national gold production has steadily increased from 2.2 percent to 43 percent between 1989 and 2021,” Mr. Yeboah added.
Prof. Paul Poku Sampane Ossei, Head-Forensic Unit, Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology (KNUST), stressed the harmful effects of using mercury, uranium and cyanide in gold extraction.
These toxic chemicals, he said, pose serious health risks – including damage to the liver, kidneys, maternal health, cancer and malformation in unborn children.
He urged miners to embrace mercury-free technology and mine responsibly, emphasising the need for collective efforts to raise awareness about the health effects of toxic chemicals.
Municipal Chief Executive Officer at Tarkwa Nsuaem, Benjamin Kessie, echoed the importance of exploring improved technology for sustainable and responsible mining practices, emphasizing its potential as a game-changer in the field.
Sammy Bonzoh, a miner at Fanti Mines in Abosso, encouraged the gold miners to buy the GoldKacha machine – which gives more recovery of gold. “I couldn’t buy the set; I bought the concentrator and konka, which replace the mercury part, and that has been more helpful,” he added.
Later, stakeholders in the mining industry visited a mining site at Abosso in the Prestea Huni Valley municipality, where a demonstration on using GoldKacha that led to processing gold took place.