Environmental Impacts of Mercury Use in Unregulated Artisanal Gold Mining in West Africa

Project: Research council

Project Details


2019/20 QR GCRF funding project

Layman's description

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM), low-tech, labour intensive mineral extraction and processing, provides a major source of direct and indirect employment for millions of poor people across resource-rich West Africa. However, in many countries, the ASGM sector is unregulated, generating critical environmental and associated health impacts. In particular, the contamination of water resources through the uncontrolled use of toxic chemicals such as mercury and cyanide is becoming prevalent across the continent.. Estimates suggest that the ASGM sector constitutes 37% of global anthropogenic atmospheric mercury emissions to the environment causing severe neurological and health effects, particularly for unborn children and infants.

The overall aim of this project is to strengthen existing collaborations and develop new partnerships between researchers from the University of Bath and academic and government institutions in West Africa. Through networking activities at a primary 3-day workshop in Accra, Ghana, the project will bring together researchers from University of Bath and West Africa, as well as key international organisations, to address the following key areas of inquiry:

1) Assess the scale, scope and intensity of mercury use in gold mining areas across West Africa;

2) Review evidence of environmental and health impacts across the region;

3) Compare intervention (social, economic, technical) strategies and their effectiveness.

The workshop will be interactive, involving three key-note presentations covering each of the areas identified above, followed by smaller group-based focussed break-out sessions. The team has a track record of running workshops structured on a similar formula in Nairobi Kenya, and in Bath.

Through discussions and the exchange of knowledge, the workshop will map the current state-of knowledge and identify and articulate the knowledge gaps where future research will have the most direct and significant impact on the health and well-being of low income and vulnerable communities across the region. Importantly, the availability of existing data on environment and health to support the research will be reviewed, and future data collection needs will be documented.

Participants from the following organisations have confirmed their interest in joining the workshop:

• University of Bath, UK
• Fourah Bay College, Freetown, Sierra Leone
• The Ministry of Mines and Mineral Resources, Sierra Leone
• The Environmental Protection Agency, Sierra Leone
• University of Mines and Technology (UMaT), Tarkwa. Ghana
• The Mineral Commission, Ghana
• United Nations Environmental Programme (UNEP), Nairobi, Kenya
Short title£24,892
Effective start/end date1/10/1931/07/20