The Global Environment Facility Small Grants Programme (GEF/SGP) in collaboration with the Ecological Restoration and the International POPS Elimination Network (IPEN) has held a round table discussion on the Minamata Convention on the use of mercury.
The discussion is to enable policy makers, researchers, practitioners and civil society organizations discuss issues of mercury usage in Ghana and agree on the way forward to implement the Convention in Ghana.
It is also aimed at raising awareness among stakeholders and finding strategies to help reduce or find alternatives to mercury use and the possible elimination of mercury and mercury products
The Minamata Convention on Mercury is an international treaty signed by 128 countries and ratified by 10 countries and was adopted in Japan in October 2013.
It seeks to protect human health and the environment from the harmful effects of mercury.
The objective of the convention is to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic (man-made) emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.
Mr Emmanuel Odjam-Akumatey, the Executive Director of GEF/SGP, said the convention on mercury had travelled a long way through more than three years of intensive work after five negotiations which started in 2010.
He said its concern arose from the history of mercury pollution and that total anthropogenic emissions of mercury in 2010 were 1960 tonnes with 37 per cent of the emissions coming from small scale gold mining alone, adding that, ?the sub-Saharan African contributed 16.1 per cent of global mercury emissions with the artisan mining being the largest contributor?.
Mr Odjam-Akumatey said worldwide, the Minamata worst case scenario had shown the damaging effects of mercury on human health including, damage to the central nervous system, thyroid glands, kidneys, lungs, immune system, eyes, gum and skin, neurological and behavioural disorders and many more.
He said a report by Ghana?s Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) showed that as at 2013, artisanal small scale mining contributed 34.8 per cent (1,464,781 ounces) of mercury usage in gold production and in 2011, about 19.26 metric tonnes of mercury was imported which has gradually reduced to about 2.5 metric tonnes in 2013.
The Executive Director said Article seven, paragraph two, of the Minamata Convention enjoins each party to commit to reduce and where feasible eliminate the use of mercury mining and processing.
He said to achieve these, the Ecological Restorations was seeking to work with the Government of Ghana to educate Ghanaians on the Mercury Act 1989, Mineral and Mining Act 2006 (Act 703) and Environmental Assessment Regulations 1999 (LI 1652) that regulates Mercury imports and use in Ghana.
?Governments should step-up intensive education on the effects of mercury in mining areas, Support the phasing-out of use of mercury and mercury products, increase support in dental health care and assist the EPA to implement the provisions of Minamata Convention.?
Dr Sam Adu-Kumi, a Director of the EPA, said controlling the anthropogenic releases of mercury throughout its lifecycle had been a key factor in shaping the obligations under the convention.
He said the convention demanded the countries on the convention to develop and implement a national action plan and also submit the plan to the convention Secretariat within three years.
It also requested all countries on the convention to provide a review of the progress made every three years and include such reviews in its reports.