Ummy Mwalimu, the Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office (Union and Environment) issued this directive in an address to small-scale miners at Nholi area in Bahi district, Dodoma region at the weekend.
She said that the government has not banned the importation and use of the chemical but it needs to know those involved in its importation and use so as to set out the use of alternative chemicals.
About 80 per cent of mercury imported into the country is used in mineral refining activities, where the government is committed to reducing the use of mercury by about 30 per cent by 2025, she stated.
"I would like to emphasize that mercury is not illegal, so those who import or distribute it should not hide as they will not be arrested. My office and the Ministry of Mining will work together to ensure that we have access to alternative technology to process gold,” she stated.
Mercury is used more by artisanal gold miners, with about 25 to 35 percent of the miners being affected by the chemicals. More than 1.2 million people are involved in mining, with 13.2 to 20 tonnes of mercury used in gold processing annually, she asserted. .
A report by the World Health Organization (WHO) found that mercury is one of the most dangerous minerals, endangering health as it could causes cancer and kidney disease, also harming animals and plants, she said.
The miners need to take care of the environment around their mines by not cutting down trees and instead seek permits to use the trees for appropriate needs, she urged, advising the miners bury the used chemicals in one place to ensure mercury does not spread indiscriminately as it could cause harm.
“The government recognizes small-scale miners as they earn income from these activities and also provide revenue to the government,” she said, telling mine owners to provide equipment to help protect diggers avoid the effects of mercury. A mining center was being planned so that local miners could learn these procedures, she affirmed..
Bahi District Commissioner Mwanahamisi Munkunda said her area is implementing a directive from Vice President Samia Suluhu Hassan to plant one million trees in each district.
Each ward in the district is to plant more than 50,000 trees and each household must plant at least five trees and take care of the seedlings as this help in environmental protection, she said.
The DC asked the minister to provide guidance on farming along river banks, causing expansion and flooding when it rains, also pointing out challenges for small-scale miners creating holes on the landscape as they aren’t capable of conducting prior surveys to identify mineral ores.
Ministerial experts note that Tanzania signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury on October 10, 2013 and aims to protect human health and the environment against the effects of mercury-induced pollution.
Its other objectives include protecting people from sources of pollution in areas where mercury is used intentionally or by accidental exposure, they said.
Mercury affects the nervous system, hearing, speech, sight and digestion, impacts on vital organs such as heart, lungs, liver, kidneys and disturbs pregnancy in women, they added.