Mercury-Free Mining: A Sustainable Solution for Artisanal and Small scale Mining

For many years, the operations of artisanal small scale miners have been heavily dependent on mercury as the main method for gold recovery and has left extensive levels of the chemical (mercury) in the environment through the dumping and washing away of tailings in the water bodies and soil. The Artisanal Small scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector alone is the largest contributor to global mercury pollution, responsible for the emission of about 2,000 tonnes of mercury annually, resulting in harmful impacts on human health, ecosystems, and biodiversity across the globe.

Mercury is a toxic metal that poses serious threats to human health and the environment. Mercury can damage the nervous system, impair brain development, affect child development and cause various chronic diseases. Mercury can also cause serious havoc to the ecosystems, pollute and contaminate the food chains affecting fish and wildlife that are consumed by millions of people. The resulting problems therefore are not only borne by mining communities but non-mining communities as well.

As a global action against the unbridled use of mercury, a global treaty known as the Minamata Convention came into force on 16 August 2017, primarily to protect human health and the environment from the adverse effects of mercury. The Minamata Convention draws attention to the use of mercury in products and human activities, its storage and disposal, and effects.  It also promotes and encourages new scientific knowledge and technological developments towards bringing an end or eliminating the use of the chemical in several products, processes and activities especially mining. The convention aims to protect human health and the environment from anthropogenic emissions and releases of mercury and mercury compounds.

Given the challenges and negative effects of this chemical, Commodity Monitor Limited, a logistics, trading and research company is making a conscious effort to reduce and eliminate completely the use of mercury in mining at all levels by the introduction of mercury- free mineral processing technologies in the Ghanaian and west African Artisanal and Small-scale Mining (ASM) sector.

A display of the complete set of mercury-free mineral processing technology.

The technology has gravity-recoverable rate of over 90% compared to the traditional methods with less than 40% gold recovery, and as an additional advantage, they are able to remediate mercury from feed materials that has been previously treated by the amalgamation process, therefore presenting an opportunity to safely discard the mercury that would have otherwise polluted the environment.

     Gold recovered using mercury-free technology.                           Mercury remediated from tailings.

These efficient and cleaner technologies is at present the best solution for developing environmentally acceptable ASM activities in Ghana and Africa. In Ghana, the government has commissioned 100 of these mercury-free technologies to promote their policy known as Community Mining Scheme meant to tackle illegal mining and sanitizing the sector from the use of mercury.

Commodity Monitor Limited is keen on improving the management of artisanal small-scale mining in Ghana to ensure that its contribution to socio-economic development is felt within communities through sustainable mining practices.

On the field, we work with miners to install the technology, run demonstrations on the operations of the technology and train miners on how to use it safely and effectively. We have also been monitoring the environmental and social impacts of our technology, such as reducing mercury emissions, increasing gold recovery rates, enhancing income generation and improving health and well-being.

On-site demonstration and training of miners on the use of mercury-free processing technology.

The number of miners adopting our technology and switching from the use of mercury to mercury-free processing technologies is growing rapidly as the results have been positive. We expect to build on these achievements over the coming months and years in our mission of championing the use of green mining technology. We believe that empowering these communities with our mercury-free processing technology, will not only protect the environment and human health, but also promote sustainable development.

Master

Writer & Blogger

The production, processing, and trading of commodities through global value chains connect actors from developed, developing, and emerging countries.

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