Archive | Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining/Mercury Problems

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 →

Brazil prosecutors demand crackdown on illegal gold mining in Amazon’s “El Dorado” – by Chris Arsenault (Reuters U.S. – May 8, 2017)

RIO DE JANEIRO (Thomson Reuters Foundation) – Officials in Brazil’s largest state are facing mounting pressure to crackdown on illegal gold mining in the Amazon rainforest where thousands of workers are destroying ecologically sensitive land, according to the Amazonas state prosecutor’s office.

Since 2007, thousands of miners have descended upon Apui in northwestern Brazil in the so-called “New El Dorado” hoping to strike rich but in the process destroying 14,000 hectares of jungle by cutting down trees and poisoning rivers with mercury.

In a drive to close these illegal mines, prosecutors are now suing Brazil’s environment enforcement agency, the Institute of Environment and Renewable Natural Resources (IBAMA), and other government departments which they say have failed to stop ecological crimes in illicit mines. Continue Reading →

Showdown in Indonesia Brings World’s Biggest Gold Mine to Standstill – by Krithika Varagur (Voice Of America – February 27, 2017)

JAKARTA — The American mining company Freeport-McMoRan has brought the world’s biggest gold mine, in the Indonesian province of West Papua, to a standstill. The corporation is butting heads with the Indonesian government over protectionist mining regulations.

And now that Freeport has started to dismiss tens of thousands of workers, the local economy is poised to take a huge hit. In Mimika Regency, the West Papua province containing the Grasberg gold mine, 91 percent of the Gross Domestic Product (GDP) is attributed to Freeport.

Freeport Indonesia abruptly stopped production on February 10 and laid off 10 percent of its foreign workers. It employs 32,000 people in Indonesia, about 12,000 of whom are full-time employees. The freeze was a reaction to a shakeup in Freeport’s 30-year contract with the Indonesian government, signed in 1991. Continue Reading →

Colombia’s ‘Blood Gold’ Turns Up in Everything From Smartphones to Cars – by Andrew Willis (Bloomberg News – Novmeber 16, 2016)

Deep in the jungles of Colombia, thousands of small, illegal mining operations, many under the control of Marxist guerrillas or drug traffickers, are working long hours to pull gold out of the ground. Miners are digging in out-of-the-way places such as Timbiquí and Río Quito. From there, the gold is hauled by boat, truck or small airplanes to smelters in Cali and Medellin.

Enter the international gold refiners, armed with certificates of good business practices, who buy the gold and in turn, sell to U.S. corporations large and small. Underscoring just how fraught global supply chains can be, the gold finds its way into products ranging from smartphones to cars and gold coins made by the U.S. Mint.

Corporations, buying in good faith, as well as companies that use gold for jewelry, rely on organizations whose task is assuring the legality of the gold. Many, including Apple Inc. and General Motors Co., also do independent audits of their supply chains, including gold and other metals. Despite those efforts, experts say, illegal gold slips through the system. Continue Reading →

Gold mining invades new areas of Peruvian Amazon – by Benji Jones ( – November 11, 2016) Environmental Headlines

Illegal gold mining in Peru – once restricted to the southern states – is now spreading across new territory in the northern and central Peruvian Amazon. In a report released earlier this month, Monitoring of the Andean Amazon Project (MAAP) revealed three new “frontiers” of gold mining in the departments of Amazonas and Huánuco – regions that boast exceptional biological and cultural diversity.

Across the frontiers, MAAP detected 32 hectares of mining deforestation – an area equivalent to about 42 soccer fields. These mining scars are fresh, and relatively small, indicating that a larger-scale deforestation event can still be prevented.

“Deforestation in these cases is still in its early stages, so there is still time to avoid larger-scale damage, as in the case of [the southern region of] Madre de Dios,” the report states. Continue Reading →

Peru proposes state-owned bank buys gold from artisanal miners – by Mitra Taj (Reuters U.S. – September 8, 2016)

The government of Peru wants a state-owned bank to buy gold from artisanal miners in order to replace a lucrative but shady informal market, Finance Minister Alfredo Thorne said on Wednesday.

Thorne said the miners would receive a better price for their gold and would not have to pay the value added tax rate, giving them incentives to register with the government and comply with environment and labor laws.

President Pedro Pablo Kuczynski, a former investment banker who took office on July 28, had previously proposed establishing a “mining bank” to buy the gold. Kuczynski said the bank could be controlled in part by private shareholders. Continue Reading →

Surge in gold prices brings no change in fortune for Madagascar’s miners – by Nadene Ghouri (The Guardian – July 25, 2016)

Lack of investment and regulation means life is hard for the men, women and children panning for tiny fragments of gold along Madagascar’s river beds

Miandrivazo – A drumming sound reverberates across the bridge and over the valley: the gold panners are hard at work.

Dotted along the edges of a river bed are hundreds of people, rhythmically banging wooden poles into the red earth. They are gold miners “sampling” the dry soil for the precious metal. Crouched alongside them are other workers, carefully panning piles of earth through homemade metal sieves.

Maria, 45, holds out a plastic dish of earth. “See? Here it is.” She points to some tiny fragments of what looks like glitter. “Now we know there is gold in this spot, so now my husband will continue to dig deeper to see if we can find more. Maybe we will or maybe we won’t. With this work there is no guarantee.” Continue Reading →

Peru Scrambles to Drive Out Illegal Gold Mining and Save Precious Land – by Suzanne Daley (New York Times – July 26, 2016)

A force of marines and rangers is outnumbered as it tries to protect the area anchored by the Tambopata reserve, one of the most biologically diverse places on earth.

ON THE BORDER OF THE TAMBOPATA RESERVE, Peru — The raid began at dawn. In four small wooden boats, the forest rangers and Peruvian marines, checking and rechecking their automatic weapons, headed silently downriver toward the illegal gold miners.

They didn’t have to go far. Around the first bend was a ramshackle mining settlement, tarps stretched over tree poles. Soon, the marines were firing into the air, the miners and their families were on the run, and the rangers were moving in with machetes.

They speared bags of rice and plastic barrels of drinking water, kicked aside toys and smashed tools before setting everything on fire. High above the Amazon rain forest, home to trees that are more than 1,000 years old, heavy plumes of black smoke spiraled toward the clouds. Continue Reading →

Mongolians impressed at small scale mining program in Philippines (Update Philippines – June 12, 2016)

About 15 Mongolians involved in Artisanal Small-Scale Mining (ASSM) visited South Cotabato over the weekend to learn first-hand the “best practices” of the thriving small-scale gold mining industry in the province of South Cotabato, officials said here Saturday.

Speaking during a news conference atthe South Cotabato provincial capitol, Provincial Environment and Management office (PEMO) chief Siegfred Flaviano said NGO BAN Toxics, PEMO partner in its province-wide campaign for Mercury-free mining, accompanied the Mongolians in their tour.

“They were impressed how the province managed the small mining activities and they would like to emulate it,” Flaviano said in Filipino. To show effective PEMO practices to ensure environment-friendly mining activities, he presented to visiting Mongolian miners the “Galing Pook-awarded Minahang Bayanihan” Program of the province through an audio-visual presentation which was translated by the group’s interpreter. Continue Reading →