Mercury-free mining technology introduced to fight galamsey
To bolster the fight against illegal mining, which has become a national canker and raised serious concerns about pollution of rivers in mining areas, a new mineral processing technology has been introduced by a Ghanaian company to promote sustainable mining.
The mineral processing technology ensures a cleaner gold mining and extraction process that prevents the use of mercury and prevents tailings being directing of into water-bodies and mounting machinery, such as Changfas, in/on rivers.
The mining plants are supplied as fully comprehensive modular solutions from ore through gold dore or bagged mineral concentrates, as appropriate, without using toxic mercury. The machines improve the operations of miners in terms of high productivity and ensure superior gold recovery.
In an interview with the B&FT, Stephen Yeboah – Chief Executive Officer (CEO) of Commodity Monitor Ltd., a Ghanaian-owned trading, logistics and research company – said his outfit’s aim of introducing the new technology is to join the fight against illegal mining, especially considering the devastation it is having on water-bodies in mining areas across the country.
“The goal of rolling out the mercury-free mineral processing technology is to assist artisanal and small-scale miners with efficient mining plants and equipment that achieve three basic goals – high tonnes per hour processing, no mercury use, and high gold recovery.
“Our technology ensures very high gold recovery. The current processing method allows miners to recover just about 35 percent of their gold. This new mercury-free technology recovers more than 90 percent of gravity-recoverable gold.
“Our technology contributes to the fight against galamsey. The good news is that government, through the Minerals Commission, has made our technology the main mineral processing technology for all community mining areas. The 100 plants purchased were commissioned by the President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo in June 2022. This is a significant and critical step taken by government,” he stated.
Mr. Yeboah further stated that the new technology will ensure that mercury in mining, which is extremely hazardous to humans due to its serious health implications, will be a thing of the past.
“More worrying is the unregulated, high use and exposure of mercury in gold recovery by artisanal and small-scale miners. Mercury use in this sector, globally, is estimated to be over 2,000 tonnes each year – with virtually all of the chemicals released finding their way into the atmosphere, water-bodies and land.
“This puts miners and communities at risk of permanent brain-damage,seizures, vision and hearing loss, and delayed and impaired childhood development,” he added.
The mining sector contributes significantly to the country’s merchandise export earnings as well as domestic revenues. The sector contributed circa US$6.8billion in export earnings for 2020 and US$5.1billion in 2021.
The Artisanal and small-scale mining subsector contributes about 40 percent of the country’s total gold production and generates both direct and indirect employment, with more than one million people directly engaged in the subsector and an additional four million people indirectly dependent on it for their livelihoods.
Thus, Mr. Yeboah said, given the mining sector’s contribution to the country’s economic development, instead of banning these activities appropriate technologies must be used and the traditional approach changed to eliminate the present devastating impacts on the environment.
“The small mining sector is a huge one with about one million people. If you go to some communities, more than 90 percent of the young people are into mining; so imagine stopping it. Small-scale mining was banned initially for two years but the problems still persisted, so the sustainable way of dealing with it is to change the way they work and not a blanket ban on the activities,” he said.
For the many decades of small scale mining operations, there has been unfettered dependence on mercury as the main source of gold recovery in Ghana. The consequence is that abandoned mine waste usually contains high mercury concentrations due to inefficiency.
“Our mercury-free technology utilises ‘soil-washing’ as a remediation technique – which means mercury contents are extracted from the mine waste and tailings to prevent further washdown into rivers and water sources.”
Mr. Yeboah is confident the fight against galamsey can be won by making this technology available to all artisanal and small-scale miners, saying a mercury-free way of mining is the right path to take.
“It is the surest way of leveraging transformation in the artisanal and small-scale mining sector,” he said. It will accelerate implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury, which Ghana ratified in 2017 to reduce and eliminate mercury-use in the minerals sector.
Currently, he said, over 20 of the mercury-free mining machines have been deployed in mining communities such as Wa, Bongo and Tarkwa, among others.
Source: The Business & Financial Times (B&FT)