The government has estimated US$400 million as the amount needed to dredge and clean the heavy mercury content in the Ankobra River in the Western Region due to the activities of illegal small-scale mining.
This followed the assessment of the turbidity level of the River by a private research firm, which was commissioned by the government last year.
Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by large numbers of individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in air. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality.
Professor Kwabena Frimpong-Boateng, Minister of Environment, Science, Technology and Innovation, who announced this at the Meet-the-Press Series in Accra on Tuesday, said reclaiming the mined areas would be costly since it involved about 10 per cent of the country’s landmark.
He said between February and April last year, the Ghana Water Company (GWC) could not process raw water from water treatment plants at Osino, Sekyere-Hemang and Daboase because of increasing turbidity of the water.
He said however, the operation of Operation Vanguard was yielding some positive response, and that some of the water bodies could now be treated for consumption by the GWC.
He said intelligence report gathered by the Ministry revealed that, eight mining firms were secretly involved in illegal mining operations and discharging the waste into water bodies, thereby, costing the GWC huge sums of money to purify raw water for consumption.
He said before the ban on small-scale mining would finally be lifted, government would conduct a baseline survey to examine the level of pollution of water bodies, mining communities and fish stock, which would help the nation to source funding from a global environment facility for the reclamation exercise.
Commenting on newly discovered mineral resources in the country, the Minister said there were high deposits of lithium in Volta and Western regions, which could be used to produce mobile device batteries.
“We allow people outside to exploit the lithium and export them in their raw state.
“We should have an arrangement where a percentage of the lithium is processed here so that we can produce the batteries for our own use,” he said.
Prof. Frimpong-Boateng said the government had drafted a Zero Plastic Policy and that after all the necessary consultations had been done, the nation would have a plastic policy to manage the plastic waste phenomenon.
Regarding the call for the complete ban of plastic materials in the country, the Minister explained that initial consultation and study into that had proven it would not be feasible for the time being, and so government would wait until the policy was adopted to guide the way forward.
“It will not be a whole-sale ban… I’m not going ahead of the policy, but I think that it would be prudent to start with the ban of carrier bags so that when you go to a shop, you can keep your things in a cotton bag,” he said in response to an answer by journalists.
The Minister said as part of efforts to address the plastic waste menace, there were already some public-private sector initiatives where plastics were being used to manufacture pavement stones and plastic concretes for the building and road construction.