REDUCING THE USE AND RELEASE OF MERCURY BY ARTISANAL GOLD MINERS
Mercury Source: Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is considered one of the world's largest emitters of mercury into the environment, accounting for approximately one-third of all global emissions. Miners use mercury to amalgamate gold. During the amalgamation process, mercury can be released directly into adjacent aquatic ecosystems because of poor care and handling of the liquid mercury. Mercury vapor is also released into the atmosphere when the mercury-gold amalgam is burned. The release of mercury creates a high risk of human exposure and also impacts adjacent terrestrial and aquatic ecosystems.
BRI's Tropical Program is working with the U.S. Department of State to identify techniques to improve mining efficiency while also reducing the reliance on mercury to extract gold. The project is being conducted in collaboration with Paul Cordy of the University of British Columbia and includes a combination of miner training activities and workshops designed to introduce appropriate technologies to miners. The project is focused in the Andean Region of South America.
Global Distribution of Mercury Emissions
Source: United Nations Environment Programme’s Global Mercury Assessment 2013: Sources, Emissions, Releases and Environmental Transport.
National and International Efforts to Reduce Mercury Emissions
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is working toward finding solutions to the mercury issue related to small-scale gold mining.
The new Minamata Convention on Mercury and other international efforts provide collaborative opportunities to build awareness and create solutions for this global problem.