THE government has threatened to take to task mercury importers, who dangerously engage in running the illegal trade, and instead called upon them to immediately register their business.
Taking the stance, the Government Chemist Laboratory Authority (GCLA) Director of Regulatory Services Mr Daniel Ndio said yesterday that although the government hasn't banned the importation and use of the toxic substance, importers and dishonest traders are in the business using backdoors to import and distribute mercury, especially to artisanal and small scale miners.
Mr Ndio further said that mercury in mining is used to extract gold from the ore and it is a highly toxic chemical artisanal miners prefer to recover minute pieces of gold that are mixed in soil and sediments, adding: “When the two are applied, mercury and gold settle and combine together to form an amalgam…miners then use vapour to extract the gold from mercury.”
According to Mr Ndio, while there is cleaner and safer alternative technologies such as sodium cyanide, artisanal and small scale gold miners were still using mercury which is imported and distributed illegally.
Experts say besides the threats that mercury poses to human health and the environment, its ability to extract gold is only between 25 and 30 per cent against other technologies such as sodium cyanide that produces results above 70 per cent.
The government's call comes barely less than a decade before the world phased out production and supply of mercury under the Minamata Convention which Tanzania is a signatory.
Reached for a comment, Mr Sudian Chiragwire, the Chief Geologist at the Geological Survey of Tanzania acknowledged that artisanal and small scale gold miners were still struggling to identify right technology not only during mining but also through refining the precious metals.