An Illegal artisanal gold miners work at an open mine after occupying parts of Smithfield farm, in Mazowe, Zimbabwe. The state has banned mercury, a chemical used by miners to extract gold. Image: REUTERS
HARARE – Zimbabwe has banned the use of mercury in mining and placed controls on its release from industrial operations, joining several countries which have phased out the toxic metal, state media reported on Tuesday.
The ban will affect small-scale gold miners who use it to extract gold. Small-scale miners now produce more than half of the country’s bullion output.
The state-owned Herald newspaper reported that Zimbabwe had ratified the Minamata Convention banning the use of mercury in mining and put in place regulatory measures to stop its release from industrial equipment like boilers, incinerators and power stations.
Mercury, which is easily accessible to miners in Zimbabwe, is highly toxic and poses severe public health risks when it contaminates food and ground water.