The Effect of Small Scale Gold Mining activities on the Birim River in the East Akim Municipality of the Eastern Region

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ABSTRACT Ghana has been a producer of gold since the 16th century and boasts of one of the largest and richest gold reserves in the world with a long history of mining. Mining of gold in Ghana is categorized into small scale and large scale minings. The activities of small scale gold mining have been the target of strong opposition in recent years mainly because of its various environmental and social effects, the foremost of these is mercury pollution. The Birim River in the East Akim Municipality of the Eastern Region is heavily polluted due to the activities of small scale gold mining. The aim of this study was to determine the effect of small scale gold mining activities on the Birim River in the East Akim Municipality of the Eastern Region. Twenty-five water samples were collected from the Birim River at the following points: Apapam, Kibi, Pano, Bunso and the upstream of Apapam which served as a control. Sampling of the water started at the beginning of January, 2011 and ended in March, 2011. The water samples were treated and analyzed using Unicam 929 Atomic Absorption Spectrophotometer and Automatic Mercury Analyzer to determine heavy metal concentration in the water samples. The physico-chemical parameters of the water samples were also determined. The values obtained for turbidity, 353.2 NTU; conductivity, 156.2 µs/cm; total dissolved solids, 3254 mg/l; and heavy metal concentration: iron (Fe), 436 mg/l; copper (Cu), 0.908 mg/l; mercury (Hg), 0.301 mg/l; lead(Pb), 0.753 mg/l; zinc ( Zn), 0.735 mg/l; and cadmium ( Cd), 0.067 mg/l; were very high well above the control values. The high levels of the parameters could have been caused by the activities of the small scale gold mining. The high levels may have a detrimental effect on the health of the communities that use the river. It is suggested that the mining activities in the river should stop and alternative livelihood be found for those engaged in the small scale mining activities,2011
A Thesis submitted to the Department of Environmental Science Kwame Nkrumah University of Science and Technology in partial fulfillment of the requirements for the Master of Science degree in Environmental Science