President Nana Addo Dankwa Akufo-Addo on Monday commissioned 100 mercury-free gold processing equipment to be used for the extraction of gold in the small-scale mining sector.
The mercury-free gold equipment, known as "katcha" can recover over 90 per cent of gold from the ore--that is a threefold increase in a day compared to the old method of the use of mercury.
Speaking at the commissioning ceremony at the Black Star Square in Accra, President Akufo-Addo said the government's goal was to eliminate gradually the use of mercury in small scale mining in the country.
He said small scale mining accounts for about 40 per cent of the country's gold exports, provides job opportunities and sources of livelihood for many Ghanaians and contributes significantly to Ghana's foreign exchange earnings and revenue generation.
For instance, in 2019, proceeds from the export of minerals increased to US$6.7 billion from US$5.8 billion in 2018 according to the Bank of Ghana (BoG).
Small scale mining in particular, according to BoG, contributed 35 per cent of gold production in that same year (2019). However, it had mostly been carried out illegally, degrading the country's forests and land resources, polluted water bodies and the eco-system.
President Akufo-Addo said illegal mining activities had caused environmental problems such as water pollution, deforestation, poor soil fertility and limited access to land for agriculture productivity, particularly the use of mercury in the recovery of gold.
Following the government's heightened drive to deal with illegal mining activities particularly in "red zones" to safeguard the country's environment and water bodies, many illegal miners lost their illegal sources of livelihood.
The solution to the menace, according to the President, could not be the banning of small-scale mining, which had been practised in the country as far back as the 15th century.
On the contrarily, he said the policy was to ensure that mining was carried out responsibly and sustainably in line with international best practices and conventions across.
President Akufo-Addo said with its associated unavoidable job losses to the implementation of the policy, it was legitimate that the government provided legitimate alternative sources of livelihood for such persons.
Therefore, in October last year, the President launched a National Alternative Employment and Livelihood (NAELP) programme to mitigate the hardships faced by these illegal miners.
Part of the programme was the National Reclamation and Reforestation project to reclaim degraded lands and transform them into economically viable lands for cultivation.
President Akufo-Addo said the government had also revamped the community mining scheme to promote responsible and sustainable small-scale mining to support the Bank of Ghana's policy to purchase gold domestically to shore up its reserves.
The President said apart from the 100 mercury-free equipment, the government procure 300 katchas under the NAELP for the various communities where the programme was being implemented.
President Akufo-Addo assured that the government would continue to flush out illegal miners of the ecosystem to help realize the Minamata convention on mercury.
He said the government would continue to deplore appropriate measures needed to help protect, and safeguard the environment.
The Minister of Lands and Natural Resources, Samuel Abu Jinapor, said the Ministry would continue to pursue policies and programmes that would promote responsible and sustainable mining practices to contribute to national development.
Mr Jinapor said the Ministry had placed a ban on the manufacture and sale of the floating machine, known as "chufhan" and was in the process of amending the minerals and mining act 2006 (Act 703) to expand the scope of the ban.