The National Action Plan for Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining in Uganda, in accordance with the Minamata Convention on Mercury

The Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector is responsible for most mercury emissions worldwide, releasing 838 tonnes annually of mercury into the environment9 (UN Environment, 2019).

Sub-Saharan Africa is the second highest emitter with 252 tonnes annually of mercury into the environment. Mercury is highly toxic (IBID). It affects flora and fauna as well as human health. For humans, it poses a threat to the development of the child in utero and early stages of life leading to birth defects and body deformities.

Communities and ASGMs working or living around the mines can be exposed to two forms of mercury in an ASGM context: Elemental mercury and organic mercury.

The Government of Uganda implemented a project titled “Regional project on the development of National Action Plans (NAP) for the Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining in Africa”. The project was in line with the Minamata Convention whose objective is to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds and it sets out a range of measures to meet that objective.

The goal of the NAP project was to contribute to the implementation of the Minamata Convention through the reduction of the risks posed by the unsound use, management and release of mercury in the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining sector.

Uganda including other participating countries (Burundi, Republic of Congo, Central African Republic, Kenya, Swaziland, Zambia, and Zimbabwe) notified the Interim Minamata Secretariat that mercury emissions from the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector was more than significant in their respective territories.

The NAP project was aimed at assisting participating countries including Uganda to develop National Action Plans (NAPs) to reduce the use of mercury and mercury compounds in, and the emissions and releases to the environment of mercury from, artisanal and small-scale gold mining and processing in accordance to Annex C of the Minamata Convention. By developing their National Action Plans participating countries are complying with the text of the Minamata Convention and are enabled to implement it.

In addition, participating countries including Uganda, would benefit from new and updated information about the use of mercury in the ASGM sector in the country and from increased capacity in managing the risks of mercury emitted and released from such activity and to foster cooperation with similar countries for future implementation of the NAPs.

The key outputs of the NAP project were development of the national overview of the ASGM Sector, including baseline estimates of mercury use and practices” and subsequent development of the NAP on ASGM.

The NBO study of 2019 and the National Minamata Initial Assessments report of 2018 among others, informed the development of the “National Action Plan (NAP) for Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) in Uganda”.

This NAP on ASGM among others gives an introduction and background to the ASGM sector in Uganda; results of the NBO study of 2019; national objectives and reduction targets; implementation strategy of the NAP on ASGM; preventing exposure of vulnerable populations, particularly children, women of childbearing age and nursing mothers from mercury used in ASGM; resource mobilisation strategy; evaluation mechanism and work-plan and budget.

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