More than 80 per cent of gold processing in the country which is between 13.2 and 214.4 tonnes per year use mercury with the leading regions being Geita, Mbeya, Shinyanga and Mara.
In the circumstances, the government is set to reduce the use of mercury in gold processing by 30 per cent by 2025.
This was revealed here yesterday to reporters by the Environmental Engineer in the Vice President’s Office, Kamkuru Maganya, at a two-day workshop on the Minamata Protocol and the Task Plan to reduce the use of mercury by gold miners.
He said between 20 and 30 per cent of gold miners are women who engage themselves in gold processing activities.
“The small miners sector provides direct employment to about 1.2 million people and indirect employment to 7.2 million, equivalent to 90 per cent of the labour force in the country’s mining sector,” he added.
He further said many of these miners are between 18 and 40 years old, performing their activities in the mines including rock blasting and gold processing.
“It is estimated that between 25 to 33 per cent of small gold miners in the country have been affected by mercury,” he added.
He explained that so far there hasn’t been an alternative to the mercury and what was being done is to make sure the use of the chemical is safe by using protective gear and technology to protect miners’ health and the environment.
Maganya said in order to control the effects of the mercury, Tanzania last year ratified the Minamata Treaty on the use of mercury and put up a national strategic plan in the reduction of the use of the chemical element to small gold miners.
He said the government has concentrated on the small gold miners because it affects a lot of people.
For his part, Eng. Abel Madaha from Tanzania Mining Commission (TMC) said the effects of mercury to humans are big even when using protective gear such as rubber gloves.
He said any one can be affected, but pregnant women, small children and young people were more prone.
“Various researched have found out that some small gold miners were found with a large concentration of mercury in their bodies, up to 13 times more than the required level given by WHO,” he added.