Background

Mercury is a silvery-white metal that is liquid at room temperature and evaporates easily into the air. Many Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Miners (ASGM) around the world use mercury to extract the gold from the earth using its low heating point to evaporate from the gold compile.

Mercury exposure causes severe negative effects to both human health and the environment. ASGM continues to be a major issue of concern globally due to the activities and disposal of products that are contaminated with mercury .

While the world will never be entirely “mercury free” simply because it is an element which occurs naturally, we can strive to continuously minimize and eliminate where feasible all anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury (1).

In Ghana, UNITAR has jointly implemented programmes and initiatives with the Ghana Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) and other partners such as the Swiss Confederation, the Global Environment Fund and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) since 2015 to provide a national framework for the implementation of the Minamata Convention on Mercury. For example, UNITAR provided Ghana’s EPA with technical support to facilitate the ratification of the Minamata Convention. This programme was financially supported by the Swiss government. Furthermore, UNITAR has supported the EPA with the development of the Minamata Initial Assessment (MIA) Ghana in partnership with UNDP. The MIA is an essential enabling activity that has facilitated the EPA to scope the magnitude of the national mercury challenge, priorities and develop appropriate intervention plans. This project is funded by the Global Environment Fund.

Under this project, the EPA, UNDP and UNITAR jointly organized an inception for the MIA project in collaboration with the United Nationals Industrial Development Organization’s (UNIDO) National Action Plan for the Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) workshop from January 25th to January 27th, 2017.

During this workshop, a joint steering committee for both the MIA and ASGM was selected, and the roles and responsibilities of members were proposed and agreed on. One main objective of the workshop was to raise awareness of policy makers and the general public on the threats of mercury, its environmental and health concerns and the need for national action.

Workshop objectives

  1. Raise awareness of policy makers and the general public on the mercury menace, its environmental and health concerns and the need for national action;
  2. Provide an overview of the Minamata Convention on Mercury;
  3. Highlight the national status on Mercury management;
  4. Explain the objectives of the MIA/NAP projects and define the roles of partners;
  5. Establish a national coordination mechanism; and
  6. Draft project activities and action plans for implementation.

Timeline of events of mercury management in Ghana

  • 2 September 2014: Ghana becomes signatory to Minamata Convention on Mercury in New York
  • October 2015: Inception workshop on Early Ratification of the Minamata Convention
  • April 2016: Ratification of the Minamata Convention received approval by cabinet om Ghana
  • 25 -27 January 2017: Ghana organized a joint inception workshop for the development of the Minamata Initial Assessment and National Action Plan on Artisanal Small-scale Gold Mining
  • 2017-2018: Three steering committee meeetings, as a result request for exemption for the phase-out date in Annex A and B
  • 23 March 2017: Minamata Convention was ratified by the Republic of Ghana parliament
  • August 2018: Minamata Convention on Mercury enters into force

Impact stories

Conclusion

Thanks to the combined efforts from EPA Ghana, UNIDO, UNDP, Swiss Confederation, GEF and UNITAR, this project has changed how Ghana is combating mercury management. Direct outcomes from UNITAR’s involvement have created the Steering Committee, policy dialogues, and awareness campaigns to create long-lasting impact on how to phase-out mercury and the use of mercury components. While this is still an ongoing process, there are already traceable links to intended and unintended impact in Ghana. UNITAR will continue to support Ghana in the implementation of the Minamata Initial Assessment activities.

 

(1) Poulin J, Gibb H. Mercury: Assessing the environmental burden of disease at national and local levels. Editor, PrüssÜstün A. World Health Organization, Geneva, 2008. (WHO Environmental Burden of Disease Series No. 16)

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