Archive | Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining/Mercury Problems

Energy Renaissance lithium-ion gigafactory breaks ground in Tomago, NSW – by Natalie Filatoff (PV Magazine Australia- October 13, 2020)

Senec launches in Australia, aims to build an energy community

In less than a year from today, Australia will be producing its own renewable-energy-storing lithium-ion batteries in the Hunter Region.

Tomago, on the outskirts of burgeoning Newcastle and its world-class port, with its access to the skilled labour of the coal fields, the doctorates of Newcastle University, CSIRO’s Energy Centre research hub and supply chains of mineral wealth throughout Australia, has won the distinction and job opportunities inherent in becoming home to Energy Renaissance, Australia’s first advanced-manufacturing, lithium-ion battery facility.

Dubbed Renaissance One, the facility will be the flagship of ER, which intends to ramp up production to 5.3 GWh per annum of safe, affordable, hot-climate-optimised batteries for Australia and South East Asian markets in coming years. Continue Reading →

Goldmining having big impact on indigenous Amazon communities – by Dom Phillips (The Guardian – October 7, 2020)

https://www.theguardian.com/

A new report has exposed the scale and impact of mining on indigenous reserves in Amazon countries as gold prices soared during the Covid-19 pandemic.

More than 20% of indigenous lands are overlapped by mining concessions and illegal mining, it found, covering 450,000 sq km (174,000 sq miles) – and 31% of Amazon indigenous reserves are affected.

The report, released on Wednesday by the World Resources Institute, said indigenous people should be given more legal rights to manage and use their lands, and called for better environmental safeguards. Continue Reading →

Indonesians turn to illegal gold mining as coronavirus pandemic hits economy (Agence France-Presse – September 24, 2020)

https://www.scmp.com/

With the coronavirus devastating jobs across the country, desperate Indonesians are flocking to illegal gold mines as the soaring price of the precious metal overrides the risk to their lives and the environment.

Spooked by the economic destruction wrought by the pandemic, consumers and investors around the world have been snapping up gold, which is seen as a hedge against volatility, sending its price to a record above US$2,000 an ounce last month.

The surge in demand has fuelled a boom in mineral-rich Indonesia’s illegal mining industry, with workers ignoring the threat of arrest, mercury poisoning or being caught in the middle of gun battles. Continue Reading →

Amazon gold rush: illegal mining threatens Brazil’s last major isolated tribe – by Simon Scarr and Anthony Boadle (Reuters Canada – June 25, 2020)

https://ca.reuters.com/

(Reuters) – Illegal gold mining activity has risen sharply over the last five years in Brazil’s indigenous Yanomami reservation in the heart of the Amazon rainforest, a Reuters review of exclusive data from satellite images shows

The Yanomami are the largest of South America’s tribes that remain relatively isolated from the outside world. More than 26,700 people live within a protected reservation the size of Portugal, near the Venezuelan border.

However, the land beneath the pristine forest they have inhabited for centuries contains valuable minerals – including gold. Continue Reading →

Hunting for particles of gold in the jungles of Southeast Asia – by Paul Salopek (National Geographic – June 24, 2020)

https://www.nationalgeographic.com/

Artisanal prospectors in Myanmar ply a grueling trade that experts say may vanish in a generation as the world’s gold strikes shrink.

HTAW THAR, MYNAMAR – Walking across the world, you encounter human beings engaged in various repetitive behaviors. Raising babies. Fixing machines. Boiling tea. Planting crops. Posting videos on TikTok. Looking for gold.

Our species’ pervasive quest for gold is ancient and tireless. Along my 11,000-mile trail out of Africa, I have met modern-day miners blasting apart a Bronze Age gold mine—a rare, 5,400-year-old archaeological site—to squeeze the last dregs of metal from the hills of the Caucasus nation of Georgia.

I have stumbled across a tribe of nomadic prospectors sifting glimmers of placer from the wild mountains of Pakistan. And lately, in Myanmar, I met a middle-aged couple, Than Ngwe and Do Toe, washing tons of river gravel by hand in the hunt for specks of shining color. (Watch artisanal gold miners at work in Myanmar.) Continue Reading →

Subsistence miners lose out as coronavirus crushes local gold prices – by Helen Reid and Jeff Lewis (Reuters U.S. – March 31, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

JOHANNESBURG/TORONTO, March 31 (Reuters) – Informal gold miners from South America to Africa are selling gold at almost 40% discounts as measures to curb the coronavirus crimp supply routes and dry up funding.

Border restrictions and flight cancellations have created gold gluts in local markets, depressing prices for small-scale miners even as global prices are pushed back towards 7-year highs by investors piling into bullion as a safe-haven asset.

Artisanal miners – subsistence workers who typically use rudimentary techniques – number around 40 million worldwide, according to a 2019 estimate by Delve, an artisanal mining database. Continue Reading →

How one country is grappling with mercury emissions from artisanal gold shops – by Paula Dupraz-Dobias (Chemical & Engineering News – March 16, 2020)

https://cen.acs.org/

The central market was bustling in Puerto Maldonado, in the Madre de Dios region of the Peruvian Amazon. On one end of the market, diners sat on plastic stools shaded from the oppressive noon heat as food was prepared at the many open-air stands. Vegetables, fruit, and piles of locally harvested Brazil nuts were displayed nearby. Toddlers played on the ground in front of their parents’ booths.

Across the street, past a row of motorcycle taxis, more children played along the sidewalk, in front of a strip of open-front businesses advertising the purchase and sale of gold.

Such a scene is a common one in many towns in the region, which produces an estimated 15–20% of Peru’s gold exports. Worldwide, artisanal and small-scale gold mining represents about 10% of the world’s gold supply, and some 100 million people depend on such mining for survival, according to the Fairtrade Foundation, which works to promote fairer trading conditions. Continue Reading →

The scientists restoring a gold-mining disaster in the Peruvian Amazon – by Jeff Tollefson (Nature.com – February 4, 2020)

https://www.nature.com/

Months after the military expelled thousands of illegal miners from La Pampa, researchers gained access to a sandy wasteland.

“Holy shit!” Miles Silman gasped as his motorized rickshaw rattled out of the forest and onto a desolate beach. All traces of the trees, vines and swamps that once covered this patch of the Amazon had vanished. In their place were sun-baked dunes and polluted ponds created by illegal gold-mining. Silman, a conservation biologist at Wake Forest University in Winston-Salem, North Carolina, was there to document the carnage.

La Pampa was once the largest and most dangerous gold-mining zone in the Peruvian Amazon, so riddled with gangsters that scientists dared not enter. For nearly a decade, they could only watch by satellite as gold hunters mowed down some of the most biodiverse rainforest on the planet. That ended in February 2019, when the government declared martial law and expelled an estimated 5,000 miners.

Now, La Pampa is deserted and under military guard. When Silman and his colleagues surveyed the area for the first time in late June, they found a barren, eerily quiet landscape polluted with mercury, a toxic by-product of mining. The data that the researchers collect on this inadvertent experiment could help to determine the extent to which restoration is possible — or document the evolution of an entirely new, and human-made, ecosystem. Continue Reading →

What is artisanal gold and why is it booming? (Reuters U.S. – January 15, 2020)

https://www.reuters.com/

(Reuters) – A rapid rise in the price of gold since 2000 has driven millions of people to deposits in Africa, South America and elsewhere where they dig for gold using basic technology.

Such informal digging – known as artisanal or small-scale mining (ASM) – has been around for centuries, and gold offers cash to communities that may lack alternatives. There are now around 15-20 million artisanal miners, and millions more depend on them, Delve, a global platform for ASM data, estimates.

More and more people are trying to bring this fast-growing trade into the formal economy. But it has generated toxic waste and fed labor abuses, organized crime and prostitution, according to groups including the United Nations and the OECD. Continue Reading →

Venezuela’s Guaido seeks EU ‘blood gold’ designation for informal mining – by Brian Ellsworth and Vivian Sequera (Reuters Canada – January 9, 2020)

https://ca.reuters.com/

CARACAS (Reuters) – Venezuelan opposition leader Juan Guaido on Thursday urged the European Union to officially label as “blood gold” the precious metal informally mined in the country’s southern jungles as he seeks to increase pressure on the government of President Nicolas Maduro.

Maduro’s government since 2016 has supported artesanal mining in the Venezuelan Amazon to bring in revenue amid an economic crisis, an effort that expanded as Washington increased sanctions meant to force the ruling Socialist Party from power.

The initiative has been criticized by environmental activists and rights groups for contaminating watersheds with mercury and fueling massacres as gangs battle for territory. Continue Reading →

Deforestation, erosion exacerbate mercury spikes near Peruvian gold mining (Duke University – December 12, 2019)

https://www.sciencedaily.com/

Scientists from Duke University have developed a model that can predict the amount of mercury being released into a local ecosystem by deforestation and small-scale gold mining.

The research, which appears online on December 11 in the journal Environmental Science and Technology, could point toward ways to mitigate the worst effects of mercury poisoning in regions such as those that are already experiencing elevated mercury levels caused by gold mining.

“We’ve taken a lot of ground measurements in the Peruvian Amazon of mercury levels in the water, soil and fish,” said Heileen Hsu-Kim, professor of civil and environmental engineering at Duke University. “But many areas in the Amazon aren’t easily accessible, and the government often does not have the resources needed to test local sites.” Continue Reading →

Artisanal gold mining polluting Peruvian biodiversity hotspot -study – by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud (Mining.com – November 17, 2019)

https://www.mining.com/

Researchers at Dartmouth College analyzed satellite data and discovered that artisanal mining is altering the water clarity and dynamics of the Madre de Dios River watershed in the Peruvian Amazon.

In a paper published in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences, the researchers explained that higher levels of suspended sediment were found in rivers near the mining sites. The sediments contain mercury and other contaminants.

According to the Center for Amazonian Scientific Innovation, Canada’s NGO Artisanal Gold Council has registered that some 181 tonnes of mercury are released into the environment every year in the Madre de Dios region. Continue Reading →

The Hidden Cost of Gold: Birth Defects and Brain Damage – by Richard C. Paddock (New York Times – Novmeber 9, 2019)

https://www.nytimes.com/

CIDAHU, Indonesia — Thousands of children with crippling birth defects. Half a million people poisoned. A toxic chemical found in the food supply. Accusations of a government cover-up and police officers on the take. This is the legacy of Indonesia’s mercury trade, a business intertwined with the lucrative and illegal production of gold.

More than a hundred nations have joined a global campaign to reduce the international trade in mercury, an element so toxic there is “no known safe level of exposure,” according to health experts.

But that effort has backfired in Indonesia, where illicit backyard manufacturers have sprung up to supply wildcat miners and replace mercury that was previously imported from abroad. Now, Indonesia produces so much black-market mercury that it has become a major global supplier, surreptitiously shipping thousands of tons to other parts of the world. Continue Reading →

The complexities of military involvement in mining – by Patrick Kingsland (Mining Technology – August 22, 2019)

https://mine.nridigital.com/

The Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) is home to one of the world’s poorest populations, many of whom survive on less than a pound a day. It is also home to 64% of the world’s cobalt supplies – a vital mineral that powers smartphones and electric cars, and offers hope of a more renewable future.

While the majority of Congo’s cobalt is produced by some of the world’s largest mining firms, roughly a third is dug out by hundreds of thousands of informal, artisanal miners who work in dangerous conditions with few safety measures and little recompense.

The big firms use heavy duty trucks and other expensive equipment to dig out the metal. The local Congolese usually use their bare hands, with children making up a significant part of the labour force. Their efforts often end up in global battery supply chains – usually via China – and then into western smartphones and vehicles. Continue Reading →

The wildcat goldminers doomed by their toxic trade – by Tim Cocks and David Lewis (Reuters U.S. – July 24, 2019)

https://www.reuters.com/

High gold prices and cheap equipment are luring millions in Africa to informal mines that feed, and slowly poison, them

BAWDIE, Ghana – A few years after coming as a teenager to this Ghanaian town to prospect for gold, Yaw Ngoha had made enough cash to marry his sweetheart and build a house with a porch, to which he would later add a flat-screen TV and satellite dish.

So when a town elder invited a doctor to talk to miners about the hazards of wildcat mining, “nobody listened,” said the 36-year-old, sitting on a wooden bench on his porch in a lush banana grove. “We needed money.”

Since Ngoha started prospecting in the early 2000s, more and more people like him have helped Ghana grow into Africa’s biggest gold producer. Across the continent and beyond, millions have turned to the trade. Few are deterred by the risks. Continue Reading →