The Asantehene, Otumfuo Osei Tutu II, has called on the Government to take decisive steps to ban the use of mercury in small-scale mining.
He said the use of mercury in gold processing should be banned given its toxicity to the environment and human health.
Speaking at the regional consultative dialogue on small-scale mining in Kumasi, Otumfuo Osei Tutu said the prohibition of the use of mercury, which was already in force in international mining practices and standards, was necessary to ensure the safety of the people.
He said the country ought to promote legitimate and responsible small-scale mining and with the exception of properly designed mining alluvial operations, mining near rivers and water bodies should be outlawed.
Scientists say the inhalation of elemental mercury vapours could cause neurological and behavioural disorders and emotional instability, memory loss and neuromuscular changes.
Additionally, it has the potential to harm the kidney and thyroid.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu underscored the need to train and build the capacities of small-scale miners on the use of less dangerous means of gold recovery to halt damage to the environment.
He said it was imperative that the capacities of the Minerals Commission and the Environmental Protection Agency were improved by resourcing them to effectively regularise and regulate the activities of small-scale miners.
The Asantehene was optimistic that it would ensure compliance with regulatory requirements as well as responsible mining and practices.
“Personal safety and sound environmental practices should be a critical aspect of small-scale mining going forward,” he said.
“As it was with the situation for large-scale mines, reclamation and rehabilitation of mined-out areas ought to be a key aspect of small-scale mining operations,” the Asantehene said.
In his view, the renewal of licenses should be contingent on effective mining and reclamation efforts by operators.
Otumfuo Osei Tutu reminded district assemblies of the crucial role they had to play in ensuring small-scale mining activities in Ghana conformed to the required norms.
“They should make sure that in collaboration with the regulatory authorities, small-scale mining is effectively monitored so it is done in compliance with the required practices and regulatory framework, and then illegal miners could also be stopped,” he stated.
Mr Samuel Abu Jinapor, the Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, affirmed the Government’s resolve to be ruthless against those caught engaging in illegal mining.
“It is a national emergency, which calls for a national consensus,” the Minister said, and called for patriotic and non-partisan approach to addressing the menace.
The dialogue brought together participants from the Ashanti, Bono-East, Bono and Ahafo regions.
It aimed at providing input into the national discourse on the regularisation of the sector through coordination of diverse views.
It was also to develop appropriate policy options with the overarching goal of improving the operation, regulation, management and good governance of the sector.
Participants included metropolitan, municipal and district chief executives, traditional authorities, the Chief Executives of the Minerals, Lands, and Forestry commissions.
Others were representatives of political parties, Civil Society Organisations and organised small-scale mining companies and associations.