For tens of thousands of people in Western Kenya, gold mining is a way of making a living.
On informal mines across the region, women use mercury to bring out the gold. But a recent study conducted by a network of international charities has found that the chemical could be slowly killing them - and affecting the wider community.
NYATIKE, Kenya (Thomson Reuters Foundation) - Scorching sun beats down on half a dozen women as they carry large sacks of crushed ore on their backs at the Osiri-Matanda gold mine near Kenya’s border with Tanzania.
On wooden tables, they sieve the powdered ore into metal pans, add mercury, and heat the mixture over a charcoal fire. The air fills with fumes as the liquid metal evaporates - leaving behind a lump of gold.
Amongst other articles in the magazine, IPEN Co-Chair Olga Speranskaya writes about women leading the fight against the largest mining plant in Russia, the Tominsky MPP plant, owned by a Russian copper company. The company is currently destroying protected forests to clear land and build the mine. Activist scientists at the forefront of this movement describe a domino effect of environmental impacts that threaten to make the populated region uninhabitable.
THE government plans to conduct an inventory of all miners and scrutinise their work environment to control and phase out mercury use. The Minister of State in the Vice President’s Office, Union and Environment, Mr January Makamba, revealed the plan in an interview with the ‘Daily News’ in Dar es Salaam over the weekend.
Sekotong, Lombok: Elawati blames herself for what happened to her son.
Rizki Ashadi is five and still wears a nappy. He sits on a rug on the porch, dribbling and contorting his limbs. The front of his sky-blue top is wet with drool and one of his beautiful liquid brown eyes points inwards.
Geneva Switzerland : IPEN, a global network of health and environmental NGOs, have brought together a mercury poisoning survivor from Minamata, Japan with researchers who have just exposed alarming levels of mercury in women of child-bearing age across the globe. Testimony was heard from Ms. Shinobu Sakamoto, who sustained significant neurological damage from in-utero mercury poisoning when her mother, like thousands harmed or killed by industrial mercury in Minamata Bay, consumed mercury-contaminated fish. Ms. Sakamoto called on government delegates to the Minamata Convention to take strong action to bring an end to global mercury poisoning and ensure there are no more Minamatas. Specifically, Convention delegates must end the global trade in mercury that is feeding small scale gold mining, drive down coal-fired power emissions and clean up contaminated sites.