Kuni Tyessi in Abuja

Experts in the health sector have revealed that there is an urgent need for Nigeria to develop a National Action Plan to curb the use of mercury in gold mining in the country, so as not to endanger the health of the populace.

The National Consultant, Public Health and Environment (PHE), World Health Organisation (WHO) in Nigeria, Dr Edwin Edeh, pointed out that mercury, which is widely used in small-scale gold mining, is a lethal chemical and its over-exposure in the atmosphere poses great danger to humans.

Edeh who stated this at a one day health sensitisation meeting with the theme, “Strengthening Partnerships for Public Health Assessment and Awareness on Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) in Minna, said federal and state governments should actively carry out clearly outlined duties regarding the use of mercury in small scale mining activities.

He said: “Even though the sector’s activities are money-spinning, they are equally fraught with monumental health hazards due to the uncontrolled use of mercury in mining processes by peasant miners.

“We are calling on relevant ministries to proffer workable solutions that will help mitigate the adverse impact of poisonous chemicals on the people.”

He also informed the audience that 70 countries across the world were actively involved in artisanal gold-mining, noting that the sector also contributes to about 35 percent global gold production.

Speaking at the occasion, Dr. Astrid Knoblauch of the Switzerland’s Tropical and Public Health Institute, Basel, said it was gratifying to note that Nigeria was taking necessary measures to reduce the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining activities.

She disclosed that WHO has developed a framework comprising a suite of tools to support the development of public health strategies on artisanal and small scale mining ASGM.