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In Prestea, where gravediggers are in greater supply than doctors, death from mercury poisoning is routine. He has been mining for ten years, rising with the hot sub-Saharan sun to work 12-to-14-hour days in the open-air mining field in the back of his deceased brother’s house.
Mr Quarm explains that just a few months ago, he lost his brother to the sickness: it began with dizziness and migraines and evolved into exhaustion, a loss of appetite and spastic episodes.
The miners then burn this to get rid of the mercury, producing solid gold, as well as the red smog that pervades the town.
Mercury sells for about 40GH () a bottle and is shipped in legally, primarily from China, to Ghana’s major ports.
Ghana has the highest mercury emissions in Africa, but the problem is widespread.
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Few small-scale miners in Ghana are taught to identify the harmful health implications of mercury.