Archive | Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining/Mercury Problems

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 →

Peru’s illegal gold miners back Fujimori’s vow to end crackdown – by Mitra Taj (Reuters U.S. – May 31, 2016)

HUEPETUHE, PERU – In this wildcat gold mining town in the Peruvian Amazon, the boom is over. A government crackdown on illegal mines at the end of a decade-long gold rush has shuttered restaurants, quieted the town’s muddied streets and slowed the flow of migrants from poor Andean towns seeking the jungle’s riches.

But the residents of Huepetuhe, whose town square is dominated by a golden statue of a muscular miner, see a shimmer of hope in presidential election front-runner Keiko Fujimori’s promise to decriminalize the makeshift mines at the heart of the region’s economy.

Fujimori says she will repeal laws aimed at protecting the environment that ban the use of dredges and heavy machinery by miners in rivers and wetlands. She is also offering miners cheap credit and tax exemptions while they form tax-paying businesses. Continue Reading →

Asian Gold Miners Use Borax to Replace Toxic Mercury – by Ben Barber (Huffington Post – November 27, 2016)

Each year tens of thousands of people are poisoned by toxic mercury spewed into the air, land and water by small-scale gold miners in Indonesia and other low income countries where production has soared as gold prices skyrocketed.

Now a U.S.-based NGO is working with a Danish government agency to substitute toxic mercury with safe borax — a chemical used for centuries in soap and other products.

Some 600 tons of mercury are released each year in Indonesia alone — more than the total mercury contamination in Japan’s Minamata Bay outbreak in the 1950s which left 1,700 dead and thousands more with neurological damage from mercury wastes.

These days, small-scale miners mix mercury with gold-laced ore to create an amalgam of gold and mercury. Continue Reading →

The Toxic Toll of Indonesia’s Gold Mines – by Richard C. Paddock (National Geographic – May 24, 2016)

More than a million small-scale miners in this island nation are poisoned, which is leaving children with crippling birth defects.

SEKOTONG, INDONESIA – Ipan is 16 months old and suffering his third seizure of the morning. His head is too large for his body, and his legs are as thin as sticks. He arches his back, and his limbs stiffen. He cries out in pain.

His mother, Fatimah, tries to comfort Ipan, but there’s not much she can do. A dukun, or shaman, says his soul was invaded by the spirits of the monkey, bat, and octopus. On his advice, Fatimah and her husband, Nursah, changed the boy’s name from Iqbal to Ipan and fed him tiny rice balls mixed with octopus.

“The dukun says this is why Ipan’s legs look like a monkey’s legs,” Nursah says. “Actually, I don’t believe that, but I will try anything.” Doctors say the real culprit is more down-to-earth: mercury poisoning. His parents are small-scale miners who used the heavy metal to process gold for years before Ipan was born, including while Fatimah was pregnant. Continue Reading →

Peru declares mining-related emergency in remote part of Amazon (Reuters U.S. – May 24, 2016)

Peruvian President Ollanta Humala has declared a 60-day emergency in a remote part of the Amazon to curb high levels of mercury poisoning from rampant illegal gold mining, the country’s environment minister said on Monday.

A growing number of studies show that residents of the Madre de Dios region near Peru’s southeastern border with Brazil have dangerous levels of mercury in their bodies, Environment Minister Manuel Pulgar-Vidal said in announcing the move.

Tens of thousands of illegal miners who dredge for gold in the rivers and wetlands of Madre de Dios use mercury to separate ore from rock, often handling the neurotoxin with their bare hands and inhaling its fumes when it is burned off. Continue Reading →