Speaking to artisanal miners in Singida on Monday, the Deputy Minister in the Vice President’s Office (Union Affairs and Environment) Mussa Sima said the ministry will implement the project in collaboration with mining offices in areas with the lucrative natural resource.
Gloves and masks will be made available to miners as personal protective equipment, he said at Sambaru village in Ikungi District and Londoni in Manyoni district.
"I promise we will cooperate with the Mines Office so that you get specialized protective equipment during gold processing. We will bring gloves and masks for protection as this chemical is harmful," he said.
The government is continuing to educate small scale miners in different parts of the country to avoid the negative health effects of the chemical, he said.
"Tanzania ratified the Minamata Convention on Mercury last year which seeks to reduce or eliminate the use of mercury by you miners to avoid health and environmental harm," the deputy minister declared.
During the official visit to see mining operations and inspection of their environment, Sima said that the government's role is to minimize the toxic effects of mercury to protect the miners' health.
He urged the miners to stop logging during gold mining activities and instead adopt a culture of using alternative energy sources as directed by the relevant authorities.
The role of the Vice President's Office and the government as a whole is to make sure that the country responds to the challenge of climate change and to bring about an impact, he said.
“As we continued to burn and cut down trees and digging holes for minerals, the things that keep the rain coming at regular periods and the sun is worse than is usually the case,” he lamented.
Mercury is widely used by miners and it is estimated that 25 to 35 percent of the miners are affected, and more than 1.2 million people are involved in mining. Between 13.2 and 24 tonnes of mercury is used in gold processing annually on average, he stated.
Mercury is said to be one of the 10 most hazardous chemicals listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) and has serious effects on the neurological system.
Of the country’s 1.2m small miners up to 30percent are female miners and most of them use mercury, while the nearly 24 tons of mercury used is imported in a non-stop way, he further noted.
Around 25 to 33 percent of small-scale miners have been affected by the use of mercury so the government is determined to reduce or eliminate its use by small-scale miners, he further stated.
Studies show that mercury lasts in the environment for a long time (two to 20 years) and travels long distances through air, water (rivers, lakes and oceans) and soil at distances up to 1,000 kilometers from the source. It affects human health, other organisms and the environment, he added.