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The second meeting of the Conference of the Parties (COP2) to the Minamata Convention on Mercury took place from 19-23 November 2018 in Geneva, Switzerland. Prior to the start of the conference, NGOs (national and international), including a representative from NAPE held strategy meetings in preparation to the conference from 17th -19th. The Minamata Convention bans new and phases out existing mercury mines, contains measures to control trade, releases, and air emissions, and regulates the informal sector of artisanal and small-scale gold mining.

The COP2 was attended by over 900 delegates from all over the world, from both parties and non-parties to the convention. Delegates were able to agree on permanent arrangements for a stand-alone Secretariat, based in Geneva. COP2 also adopted decisions on, among others:

  • cooperation with the Basel, Rotterdam and Stockholm Conventions;
  • rules of procedure for the Implementation and Compliance Committee;
  • mercury waste thresholds;
  • harmonized customs codes;
  • contaminated sites;
  • interim storage;
  • capacity building, technical assistance, and technology transfer; and
  • effectiveness evaluation.

The COP made significant progress on substantive issues and successfully worked through many of the technical issues, but still left discussions on open burning, a review of the financial mechanism, as well as a review of Annexes A (mercury-added products) and B (manufacturing processes in which mercury or mercury compounds are used), to be dealt with at COP3. COP3 will be held between 25th -29th November 2019 in Geneva, Switzerland under the Chairmanship of Africa. Dr. David Kapindula from Zambia becomes the President of COP3.

Uganda joined East African countries of Kenya, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Burundi to phase out the use of mercury in mining in the region as it is harmful to human health and environment. Artisanal gold minld sector in these countries is poorly regulated and monitored.

Unfortunately none of the six East African countries (Burundi, Kenya, Rwanda, South Sudan, Tanzania and Uganda) has so far ratified the Minamata Convention!

In Uganda, NAPE in collaboration with Uganda National Association of Community and Occupational Health (UNACOH) and Ban Toxics from the Philippines with support from the Danish Government through Diologos, a Denish NGO are promoting a Mercury-Free gold mining worldwide.

The project’s intervention seeks to reduce health and environmental footprints caused by small-scale mining in Uganda. The major aspects of this project are to develop the capacity of ASGM miners and regulatory mechanisms within the local government, to promote mercury-free technology, and monitor mercury in the environment.

Recently NAPE and her partners carried out a Training of Trainers (ToT) for 30 ASGM miners on Mercury-Free techniques with Borax from seven districts of Uganda - (Mubende, Buhweju, Bugir, Namayingo, Busia, Moroto and Nakapiripirit). Fifteen (15) ASGM miners from Central and Southern Uganda were training in Mubende and another 15 ASGM miners from East and Northern Uganda were trained in Namayingo respectively. The miners expressed a high interest in learning the Borax methodology and pledged their total cooperation for the project.

Key benefits of the borax method over the mercury amalgamation process include increased operating efficiencies and higher yields of gold extraction, resulting in better over-all economics even before health and environment issues are considered.

NAPE is working in partnership with Uganda National Association of Occupational Health (UNACOH) and the Ministry of Gender, Labour and Social Development to promote Mercury-Free Project in artisanal Gold mining (ASGM) in selected districts in Uganda. The project is supported by Dialogs, a Danish NGO and Ban Toxic from the Philippines.

Mercury is being used freely in Uganda regardless of the fact that Uganda is a signatory to the Minamata and ILO conventions that banned the use of mercury globally. The project is a global initiative under the Convention that aims at eliminating the use of mercury in artisanal and small-scale gold mining sector globally.

Over the past century in Uganda, ASGM emerged as a relatively important source of livelihood and contributor to local economic development in several regions of the country. The ASGM sector in Uganda is informal, unregulated, and characterized by rudimentary methods, and use mercury to recover gold from the ore.

The project will target seven districts: Mubende, Bushenyi, Buhweju, Namayingo, Bugiri, Busia, Nakapiripirit where artisanal and small-scale gold mining is taking place.

The objectives of the project are to;

  • To help miners transition from the use of mercury to a more user friendly, less harmful and productive methodology using Borax in artisanal gold mining
  • Improve the health, social and economic welfare of miners as well as conserve the ecosystems around and linked to gold mining areas.
  • To advocate for the review of the mining policies to include artisanal mining sector and formulate regulatory frameworks and guidelines to govern the sector

To realize the Project objectives, two Training of Trainers (ToT) Workshops for artisanal miners from the selected districts has been organized by the project partners. There will be training for miners from the Western parts of the country (Mubende, Buhweju and Bushenyi) will be conducted in Mubende at Ekyekampala gold mining site. The second training for miners from the Eastern parts of the country (Namayingo, Bugir, Busia and Nakapiripirit) will be conducted in Makana mining site in Busia.

The miners will be trained in a new methodology that uses Borax to recover gold from the ore. The Borax methodology has tremendous benefits to the miners and their families; it is user friendly, less toxic and more productive. About 30 artisanal miners will be trained in the new methodology so that they in turn, train other miners in their communities. The training will be from May 26th to June 5th, 2017. Miners will be trained by experts in the use of Borax from Ban Toxic, an NGO from the Philippines and Diologos from Denmark.

The story was compiled by Betty Obbo

Small-scale gold miners, government decry poor disposal of mercury in miningGold miners in the country have expressed concern on the improper disposal of mercury within the industry. Mercury is used in all gold mines in the country to sieve or attract ‘gold dusts’ from soil.

However, some miners have expressed concern that after its use, mercury is improperly disposed of, which sometimes ends up in water streams and rivers. Water contaminated with mercury could affect the environment.

Soil suspected to have gold is placed in a basin of water and mixed with one bottle of mercury. Mercury attracts all the gold particles in the soil. During a recent conference to discuss the proposed amendment to the mining policy and act at Protea hotel organized by Eco Christian Organization and Action Aid Uganda, miners asked government to check the improper disposal of mercury to save the environment.

“In Buhweju, the gold deposits are located in water catchment areas and wetlands. Mercury is often improperly disposed of into wetlands. Many of our valleys have been washed down with mercury, which contaminates our water. It is a big challenge that needs to be addressed immediately,” one of the miners told participants.