THE government has started taking various measures to curb the arbitrary importation of mercury used in refining gold minerals, after it was proved to be harmful to human beings, plants and the environment.
That was said in the National Assembly in Dodoma, the Minister for Minerals Dotto Biteko adding that it was the first step taken to control its use commonly in areas, known as “Mialo.”
“In the beginning these (places) were everywhere as everyone could build. We have now decided to restrict (them) to ensure, they are placed in a designated area and a total of 525 Mialo have been registered throughout the country,” he said.
Elaborating, the minister pointed out that a Small Scale Miners’ Association-Femata and the Chief Government Chemist have developed one approach that would monitor importation of mercury in the country, saying: “A challenge we face is just lack of coordination. I want to assure the MPs that within these two months the importation of mercury will be under our control and we will have a clear source.”
That was when Mr Biteko was responding to a supplementary question from Kabula Shitobelo (Special Seat-CCM) who pointed out that the increase in cancer in Mwanza Region and the Lake Zone in general was believed to be caused by mercury.
Hence, the MP wanted to know the government’s plan to completely control the entry of such chemicals in order to save the people of Mwanza and the Lake Zone as a whole.
Earlier, Hawa Chakoma (Special Seats-CCM), in her basic question, had wanted to know to what extent the government was aware of the harmful effects of mercury.
Responding to the question, Deputy Minister Prof Shukrani Manya told the House that the government was aware of the serious health effects on humans, plants and the environment caused by the use of mercury chemicals in the mining activities.
Among the effects of the chemical on humans, he said, include affecting the nervous system, reproductive, respiratory and causing various diseases such as kidney disease, heart disease and cancer.
In addition, the deputy minister pointed out that the chemical also affects aquatic and terrestrial organisms, once it flows into the water sources that are used for a variety of purposes including human activities.
Prof Manya explained further that the way people get mercury into their body is through holding, breathing and eating foods that contain the chemical.
“Despite these health effects, the use of mercury in gold refining has shown a low gold yield potential of less than 30 percent which has led to small-scale miners failing to produce sufficient quantities and thus making small profits,” he said.
To address this challenge, the deputy minister pointed out that the government has been providing education to small-scale miners about the effects of the chemical and the safe ways to use them and suing retorts during the burning process.