Gold standard: Peru miners phase out mercury in bid to clean up industry – by Izzy Sasada (The Guardian – April 21, 2023)

The hope is that ecological certification will bring higher prices and squeeze out criminal gangs running illegal operations

The mixture of gold, sand and dirt is laid out on top of the table. Faustino Orosco adds water and at the flick of a switch the table begins to shake. Orosco is using a new technique to extract gold in Madre de Dios, Peru’s goldmining centre, in an attempt to clean up the industry.

The shaking table separates the precious metal without the need for mercury, traditionally used to separate gold, which should reduce the health and environmental risks associated with mining.

“At first, it was a radical change because it affected how we organised our work,” says Orosco, an artisanal miner at the Fátima mining concession. There was suspicion among some miners and traders about the quality of the gold the shaking tables produced, “but we decided to keep working and follow training to improve and demonstrate that it’s possible”.

Orosco and 45 colleagues in four mining concessions are now about to become the first miners in the Amazon to obtain the Fairmined Ecological Gold certification, an internationally recognised standard that confirms gold is mined in a responsible way and guarantees workers a premium rate for their product on the international market.

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