Government has clarified on the issue of mercury use in mining which was causing confusion amongst stakeholders after reports that the chemical had been banned.
Speaking to Great Dyke News 24, Minister of Environment, Climate Change, Tourism and Hospitality Industry Mangaliso Ndlovu said he did not mention anything about the ban of mercury adding that Zimbabwe only ratified the Minamanta convention so that the country becomes a party not a signatory to the convention.
“We haven’t touched any of that yet (banning mercury). We have only moved to ratify the Minamanta convention which makes us parties of the convention not just signatories.
“We are now parties of the convention and the reality is that the world is moving on to phase out mercury and as Zimbabwe we will eventually phase it out.
“The Ministry of Mines has confirmed that there are alternatives to mercury that are even more economic and less dangerous,” he said.
He added, “The discussion on a ban is not yet there but we wanted Zimbabwe to be a partner, out of 54 countries in Africa, 50 have already ratified and Zimbabwe is still one of the most users of mercury.
The minister clarified that he had not mentioned anything about the ban on mercury use in mining.
“I never made that statement. l only mentioned about the ratification which went to the parliament and what it means is that Zimbabwe is now part of the Minamata convention which we signed in 2013.”
Minister Ndlovu’s clarification comes after concerns by stakeholders in the mining sector over the purported ban on mercury. Minex Chairman Munyaradzi Hwengwere had called on government to clarify the issue.
“There’s a lot of confusion around the purported statement pertaining to the so called ban of mercury.
“l think it is very important that the government and EMA clarified this. Are we still talking about safe use principle? Are we talking about reduction? It is very important because if we do not clarify these matters chances are we will have an unintended consequences including a serious thriving black market for mercury that we may not be able to control,” he said.
Artisanal and small scale miners had also expressed concern on the purported banning of mercury in gold processing saying an operational framework for alternative methods for extracting gold should be put in place first before mercury is phased out.
In an interview with Great Dyke News 24, Environmental Management Agency spokesperson Amkela Sidange said they are pushing for the reduction of mercury in mining and other sectors.
“When we look at ratification of the Minamata convention, we need to understand that it’s all about reduction of mercury use, taking it from a landscape approach from the wider scope where we find mercury being used.
“It’s not only in the mining sector but wherever it is used where we have mercury and its compound being used. So we are saying by this ratification we are just taking a landscape approach and then look at all facets that are using mercury and try to reduce its use there,” she said.