EMA slams use of mercury in mining activities

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THE Environmental Management Agency (EMA) has raised alarm over unsanctioned use of mercury by gold panners operating along the Great Dyke, particularly the Boterekwa area in Shurugwi district.

by OWN CORRESPONDENT

EMA Midlands provincial spokesperson Timothy Nyoka told NewsDay yesterday that the level of environmental degradation was worrisome, adding that most of the area’s flora and fauna were now at risk of extinction due to uncontrolled use of mercury by panners.

“The rate at which the illegal gold miners are destroying the environment, particularly in Shurugwi, is alarming. Every now and then forests are being destroyed and rivers are being contaminated, affecting the once beautiful scenery,” Nyoka said.

“Most of them, if not all, use mercury for the mining activities without licences. The chemical ends up negatively affecting our flora and fauna in the long run. It has always been difficult to penalise the illegal miners because they are not registered. It’s hard to track them,” he said.

Nyoka called on government to urgently formalise illegal gold panning activities to save the environment.

Mercury is toxic to the nervous system, the brain and spinal cord, particularly the developing nervous system of a foetus or young child, and inhaling elemental mercury, the vapour given off when the chemical is heated, can also be dangerous.

EMA researches show that methylmercury can accumulate in fish at levels that may harm them or the other animals that feed on them.

Zimbabwe is part of the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee on Mercury, an instrument set up to drive a progressive and systematic phasing out of the use of mercury and mercury-based products overtime.