SMALL MINING CAN BE CLEAN AND PROFITABLE
Artisanal mining is a rudimentary activity that today attracts over 30 million people in virtually all developing countries around the world. As the price of gold has steadily increased over the past decade, 15 million people have become involved in extracting this metal in 55 countries. Individuals have switched to mining from primary industrial sectors such as agriculture to increase their income. These workers generally have little capital, low education levels, and no previous experience in mining. Together with a lack of technical support from governments, these factors lead to disorganized and informal mining activities that generate environmental and social chaos. The absence of technical knowledge and capital has caused a proliferation of Gold Ore Processing Centres (GOPCs) around the world established by local entrepreneurs, who provide a way for miners to process their ores using amalgamation for a fee that is relatively low to non-existent. Gold recovery by the independent miners rarely exceeds 30 % and gold-rich tailings are left at GOPC facilities as a form of payment. GOPCs recover around 90 % of the remaining gold using cyanidation, flotation, and amalgamation, without any compensation paid to the miners. In processing these mercury (Hg)-contaminated tailings, Hg cyanide complexes are produced that are dumped into aquatic environments, leading to rapid bioaccumulation of Hg by fish.
tailings; Gold; Mercury; mining; Process; Processes; cyanide; Ore;