Ghana Gold Corporation, a gold exploration and development company, says it is supporting efforts to reduce liquid mercury pollution in Ghana.
The effort to reduce the deadly mercury emissions is being spearheaded by several groups in Ghana, including Ghana’s Minerals Commission and Earth Advocates, a Ghanaian non-profit group.
As Africa’s second largest gold producer with an estimated two bullion ounces still un-mined, mining concessions in Ghana are among the most sought after in the world.
“However, mercury emissions in the country are extremely prevalent and a major health and environmental concern particularly in small scale gold mining popularly called ‘galamsey’ activities,” the Company said in a statement.
Industry reports suggest that as many as 100,000 people work in the small scale mining sector in Ghana.
Liquid mercury is used in amalgamation of gold to recover gold in its native or “free form”. While mercury simplifies the gold collection process considerably, it is extremely dangerous.
Part of the gold collection process requires that the miners bake the amalgam balls. These stone sized mercury and gold amalgam balls are heated on an open flame to separate the mercury from the gold.
This process results in virtually all of the mercury being vaporised into the atmosphere, thus leaving only the raw gold.
The United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP) estimates that mercury usage in Ghana alone could be as high as 500 tons per year.
Ghana Gold said it was preparing itself to be a primary provider of inexpensive mercury retorts.
“Mercury retorts are used in the ‘baking’ process whereby approximately 95 per cent of the mercury is recovered and not released into the atmosphere,” the mining firm said.
Ghana Gold said technicians at its metal working facility in Obuasi had designed and fabricated what was believed to be the first mercury retorts ever built in the country.
Paxi-Jones Alorgbe, Ghana Gold Advisory Board Member said: “This is a win-win for the environment, the Ghanaian people and also the Company. We could potentially be needed to produce thousands of retorts each year.”
The management of Ghana Gold Corporation has invested years in planning and developing local and national relationships with cultural and government leaders, both key to its strategic land positions on the world-famous Ashanti Gold Belt.