Archive | Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining/Mercury Problems

Illegal online sales driving mercury pollution crisis in Indonesia – by Luh De Suriyani and Nurdin Tubaka ( – April 8, 2019)

  • Illegal online mercury sales are booming in Indonesia.
  • Use of the toxic metal was banned in 2014, but it remains popular among small-time miners, for whom it’s become increasingly easy to procure online.
  • It’s a quick and dirty process that constitutes the livelihoods of some 1 million people spread across the country. But prolonged exposure to mercury can have severe health consequences.

DENPASAR/BURU ISLAND, Indonesia — Illegal online mercury sales are booming in Indonesia, and activists have had enough. “Nearly all the mercury players in Indonesia do their business illegally,” says Yuyun Ismawati, a Goldman Prize-winning activist and founder of the environmental NGO BaliFokus.

“That includes manufacturers, traders, exporters, and users, especially in the small-scale gold mining sector.”

Use of the toxic metal was banned in 2014, but it remains popular among small-time miners, for whom it’s become increasingly easy to procure online. Continue Reading →

‘Informal’ Gold Mining ‘Now 15%’ of World Output (Bullion Vault – April 5, 2019)

Artisanal + small-scale mines adds 700 tonnes to decade total…

GOLD MINING output worldwide is running more than 4% higher than previously estimated according to leading analysts, thanks to a boom in so-called “informal” projects across developing economies.

With total world gold mine output recording a 10th consecutive year of growth in 2018, and its 9th new all-time high, specialists analysts Metals Focus this week announced a “fairly substantial revision” to their estimates for artisanal and small-scale mining (ASM).

These often illegal and highly dangerous projects produced around 550 tonnes of gold in 2018 according to Metals Focus’ new figures, some 15% of total global output. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Towards a mercury-free future in Mongolia and the Philippines (United Nations Environment Program – April 5, 2019)

  • The artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector accounts for 20 per cent of the world’s annual gold production
  • New $60-million initiative will improve conditions for artisanal miners in Mongolia and the Philippines, while slashing harmful mercury emissions
  • As many as 15 million people work in the ASGM sector globally – including 4.5 million women and over 600,000 children
  • The ASGM sector is the single largest source of man-made mercury emissions, responsible for the release of as much as 1,000 tonnes of mercury to the atmosphere annually

Ulaanbaatar, 5 April 2019 – With twenty per cent of the world’s gold supply produced by artisanal and small-scale miners, urgent action is needed to reduce the environmental impact of the sector, as well as to protect the health and wellbeing of the millions of men, women and children working in the industry, according to the backers of a new project to reform the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASGM) sector in Mongolia and the Philippines. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: [Documentary] The Shadow of Gold explores the dark side of the world’s most precious metal (January 19, 2019)


Do you know where the gold in your ring comes from?

TORONTO (January 30, 2019) – The Shadow of Gold pulls back the curtain on the world’s most coveted heavy metal. Filmed in Canada (Mount Polley, BC), the U.S., London, Dubai, China, Peru and the Democratic Republic of Congo, the feature film is an incisive global investigation of the gold trade, from raw material to market, exposing its impact on human lives, the economy and the planet.

An international Canada-France co-production by award-winning filmmakers Robert Lang (Canada), Denis Delestrac (France) and Sally Blake (France), The Shadow of Gold makes its world premiere at Toronto’s Hot Docs Ted Rogers Cinema on February 22, followed by screenings in Ottawa (February 27), Vancouver (March 11), Calgary (March 20), Montreal (March 26) and Halifax (Date TBA).

The film will make its broadcast premiere as a two-part documentary with expanded content in back-to-back episodes March 13 at 9 p.m. and 10 p.m. on TVO, and March 28 at 10 p.m. and 11 p.m. on Canal D (Canada). Additional broadcasts on Knowledge Network (BC) – date to be announced, ARTE (France, Germany), SVT (Sweden) and NRK (Norway). Continue Reading →

Brazil’s Amazon rainforest under siege by illegal mines – by Ricardo Moraes and Jake Spring (Reuters U.S. – December 11, 2018)

BRASILIA (Reuters) – Environmental enforcement agents deep in the Amazon rainforest swooped down on an illegal mine in a dawn raid in early November, in a campaign to tamp down on such activities that environmental groups say have reached epidemic scale.

The operation was carried out against a handful of what are now known to be hundreds of illegal Amazon mines in Brazil that have been cataloged for the first time in a study released on Monday.

The project, coordinated by Brazilian advocacy group Instituto Socioambiental, maps all illegal mines in the Amazon rainforest that sprawls across Brazil, Venezuela, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Bolivia. Continue Reading →

Illegal gold rush destroying Amazon rainforest – study – by Anastasia Moloney (Thomson Reuters Foundation – December 10, 2018)

BOGOTA, Dec 10 (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – A rise in small-scale illegal gold mining is destroying swathes of the Amazon rainforest, according to research released on Monday that maps the scale of the damage for the first time.

Researchers used satellite imagery and government data to identify at least 2,312 illegal mining sites across six countries in South America – Brazil, Bolivia, Colombia, Peru, Ecuador and Venezuela.

The maps show the spread and scale of illegal mining and were produced by the Amazon Socio-environmental, Geo-referenced Information Project (RAISG), which brings together a network of nonprofit environmental groups in the Amazon. Continue Reading →

NEWS RELEASE: Global Trends in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM): A review of key numbers and issues (International Institute for Environmental and Development – January 22, 2018)

For the entire report:

Global Trends in Artisanal and Small-Scale Mining (ASM): A review of key numbers and issues was prepared by the International Institute for Environment and Development (IIED) for the Intergovernmental Forum on Mining, Minerals and Sustainable Development (IGF).

ASM has experienced explosive growth in recent years due to the rising value of mineral prices and the increasing difficulty of earning a living from agriculture and other rural activities. An estimated 40.5 million people were directly engaged in ASM in 2017, up from 30 million in 2014, 13 million in 1999 and 6 million in 1993. That compares with only 7 million people working in industrial mining in 2014.

ASM is generally pursued as a route out of poverty or as an activity to complement insufficient income, especially in communities where alternative employment is hard to come by. ASM is also a very diverse sector. Its main challenges vary from region to region—and often from site to site. Continue Reading →

Making Indonesian Rivers Great Again – by Muhammad Beni Saputra (The Diplomat – October 31, 2017)

Indonesia’s rivers are heavily polluted, but they can still be saved.

I once lingered at Pont d’Iena Bridge staring at the River Seine, which flows beautifully at the foot of the Eiffel Tower in the city of Paris. The clean surface of the iconic river, as seen from the bridge, had successfully entranced me and my memory flew southeast to my peaceful village near the Bukit Tiga Puluh National Park in Jambi, Indonesia. I remembered my childhood friend, the Batanghari River.

Sadly, the Batanghari is no longer as clean and clear as it was 18 years ago when I was a child. Yes, the longest river in Sumatra is now muddy, dirty, and polluted, joining hundreds of other rivers throughout Indonesia that have long contained harmful chemicals.

Research by the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry showed that 75 percent of rivers in the country are seriously polluted, 52 of which are categorized as heavily polluted, and 118 watersheds out of 450 are critically polluted. Continue Reading →

Study: Female gold diggers at risk of passing mercury to unborn babies – by Lucas Ngasike Standard Media – September 25, 2017)

Women in gold mining sites in Migori County are exposed to high levels of mercury that could harm them and their unborn babies.

A global study found nearly half of Kenyan women involved in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) had mercury levels that exceeded 1 ppm, which approximately corresponds to the US Environmental Protection Agency reference dose.

Mercury levels above 1ppm can be linked to brain damage, IQ loss, and kidney and heart damage. But foetal neurological damage can begin at mercury levels greater than 0.58ppm for which an even higher percentage (71 per cent) of Kenyan women involved in the study were found to be exposed to. Continue Reading →

In Ghana, clashes over small-scale mining have become a litmus test for China – by Andrew Green ( – August 8, 2017)

ACCRA, Ghana — Gloria Hiadzi, the executive secretary of the Ghana Independent Broadcasters Association, was present at one of the regular, informal gathering of Ghanaian media bigwigs in April, when the discussion turned to galamsey — the local term for small-scale miners who dig for gold and other minerals. The editors and publishers began to share stories of the devastation they had seen in their trips around Ghana caused by the mining.

Stories of the environmental impact of the mining regularly appear in the media, Hiadzi said, but the publishers recognized that their coverage usually faded pretty quickly.“In trying to find a way to get a solution, to get government involved, to get their eyes open, to whip up the enthusiasm of locals and everything, we felt it would be best to make it a national issue,” she said. “To launch a proper campaign.”

That campaign quickly leapt from radio spots and print stories to the streets of Accra, Ghana’s capital, where there are now regular anti-galamsey demonstrations and marches. A byproduct of the effort, though, has been heightened anti-Chinese sentiment. Continue Reading →

A Canadian company wants to help artisanal miners produce “clean gold” – by Valentina Ruiz Leotaud ( – August 8, 2017)

SEF Canada, a Vancouver-based firm that specializes in corporate social responsibility, recently launched a project called “Clean Gold Community Solutions” and it is taking its first steps in Ecuador.

“This is our newest economic development strategy built around artisanal mining communities,” said Suzette McFaul, SEF’s Managing Director. “Acknowledging that artisanal miners are entrepreneurs, we have a solution to assist them to become sustainable businesses. This includes business knowledge, access to funding and technology to process gold.”

Following a series of meetings with local leaders to understand their needs and how they see the future of their community, McFaul and her team are about to sign an agreement to help them update an existing gold processing plant in northern Ecuador to make it safer and more profitable. Continue Reading →

Mercury-Free Gold: How You Can Protect The Future By Buying This Ethical And Sustainable Jewellery – by Susan Devaney (Huffington Post U.K. – July 13, 2017)

Gold mining’s association with poor health and environmental damage has been unearthed over the years – but it’s still something many of us know little about.

“People have heard about ‘blood diamonds’, but not many realise that their gold could be responsible for one of the world’s top toxic threats – mercury,” says Richard Fuller, the President of Pure Earth – a New York-based charity that helps to clean up pollution in the poorest communities in developing countries that are affected by toxins.

Mercury poisoning can cause many unpleasant symptoms including brain malfunction, slurred speech, memory loss and loss of balance. Artisanal small-scale gold mining is the largest source of human-caused mercury pollution in the world (even more than the burning of fossil fuels), according to the International Development Research Centre (IDRC). Continue Reading →

Why it doesn’t make sense that all informal mining is deemed illegal – by Kgothatso Nhlengetwa (The Conversation – April 12, 2016)

Throughout Africa artisanal and small-scale mining, whether legal or illegal, has been associated with social problems such as conflict, environmental damage, health risks and child labour. Although there are no exact numbers of how many people participate in such mining activities, it is evident that it is widespread.

Despite its negative aspects, the contribution of small-scale mining to the resource sector and social development cannot be disputed. About 15% to 20% of the world’s non-fuel mineral production comes from this sub-sector. An example of this can be seen in Ghana, where small-scale mining has contributed US$460 million since 1989 and is estimated to employ 300,000 to 500,000 individuals.

In South Africa, illegal mining as it currently stands covers all aspects of unpermitted mining. But this definition does not allow for differentiation between invasive illegal mining and informal community miners. Invasive mining occurs when miners illegally enter the old mine workings of decommissioned mines. Informal mining is community based mining that typically follows customary law. Continue Reading →

Amazon’s billion dollar gold rush leaves trail of toxins – by Chris Arsenault and Karla Mendes (Reuters U.S. – June 29, 2017)

PORTO VELHO, Brazil/GUAYARAMERÍN, Bolivia (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Holding a plastic bottle of toxic mercury with his bare hands on an illegal gold mining barge in the Amazon basin, the 22-year-old miner says he is well aware of the dangers of the job.

In shorts and sandals, he lights a blow torch, training a blue flame on a piece of ore which his barge dredged up from the bottom of the Madeira River in Brazil’s northwestern Rondonia state, on the border with Bolivia.

Hundreds of similar barges – fashioned from plywood and metal and powered by roaring diesel motors – troll the rivers of the world’s largest rainforest leaving trails of destruction in their wake, according to government officials. Continue Reading →

Risky gold rush: Indonesia tackles illegal mining boom – by Kiki Siregar (Agence France Presse/Daily Star – June 22, 2017)

WEST TABIR, Indonesia: Hulking excavators claw at riverbanks on Indonesia’s Sumatra island in the hunt for gold, transforming what was once a rural idyll into a scarred, pitted moonscape. It is one of a huge number of illegal gold mines that have sprung up across the resource-rich archipelago as the price of the precious metal has soared, luring people in rural areas to give up jobs in traditional industries.

Now authorities in Sumatra’s Jambi province, which has one of the biggest concentrations of illegal mining sites in Indonesia, have started a determined fightback, combining a crackdown with efforts at regulation.

Declines in the price of rubber, which provided a livelihood for many in the area who had worked on plantations tapping the commodity, has driven many locals to more lucrative – and dangerous – gold mining. Iwan, a 43-year-old who works at an illegal site by the Tabir River, left his job on a rubber plantation to become a gold miner two years ago but said life was still difficult. Continue Reading →