1637d The mercury-free gravity borax method in artisanal small-scale gold mining

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Abstract

Artisanal small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the largest single anthropogenic source of mercury emissions. Mercury is used in excessive amounts to extract gold from crushed ore in ASGM. Through pollution of the air, water and nutrients, the mercury causes adverse health effects in miners and their families. However, ASGM can be performed without the use of mercury. This has been practiced for many years in a region in the Philippines with the gravity-borax method (GBM). With this method, the gold-containing ore concentrate is produced using a launder and a washing pan. As the last step, borax salt is added and the mixture blow-torched. The exposure to borax dust or fumes is limited and is not suspected of posing a health risk to the miner or the environment. The result is cleaner gold and no mercury spill. In order to spread the use of the GBM method, two intervention projects have been conducted in the Philippines. In combination with a civil society strategy, miners from the region using GMB have educated miners from other areas in the use of the GBM method. The success rate varied from area to area. In areas with a miners’ organisation and back-up from the civil society, the miners were encouraged to shift method and the change was sustained. The intervention program is now introduced in Uganda and Mozambique with the help from miners using the GBM method. In Uganda, the activities are focused on the spread of information about the mercury-free method locally and regionally. In Mozambique, the core of the project is to determine the extent of ASGM and to introduce the GBM method.

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