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Abstract Title: Coexistence with Artisanal Gold Miners: A Way to Eliminate Mercury Use
Presenter Name: Marcello Veiga
Company/Institution: University of British Columbia
Session: Special Session - Artisanal and Small- Scale Gold Mining - challenges and solutions
Day and Session: Monday 25th July - Session Three
Start Time: 11:30 UTC
Co-Authors: Marcello Veiga

Abstract Information :

The challenge of changing the polluting practices of almost 20 million artisanal gold miners (AGM) in the world has been the focus of many projects over the last 40 years. The 2000 tonnes/a of Hg lost to the environment have been the main center of the projects that usually focus on 1) Environmental-Health or 2) Technical or 3) Legal Approaches. Revealing environmental impacts and demonstrations of more efficient and less polluting alternative techniques to artisanal miners have had low positive results in reducing mercury pollution. A large majority of projects have been focusing on micro-miners, processing less than 2 tonnes/day of ore, and not dealing with the main polluters, the processing centers. The actions of Governments in formalizing artisanal miners to eliminate mercury have also resulted in modest results as formalized processing plants have not adopted cleaner techniques. This paper shows examples of coexistence of artisanal miners with conventional gold mining companies of any size in Latin America. Different coexistence models are shown where miners extract the ore and companies process it. Coexistence has been reducing the bureaucracy, and miners do not have to invest in processing equipment or waste management to extract meager amounts of gold. Miners do not have to depend on processing centers that offer amalgamation, extracting less than 30% of the gold and retaining the tailings to be leached with cyanide. Coexistence is the only process that has been eliminating the exposure of the miners and communities to mercury. It is not a universal solution as it works better in sites with infrastructure to allow transportation of ores (or tailing) to the companies? processing plants and it works better with primary ores (despite examples of alluvial ores). Good engagement of miners with companies is key for the success of the model.

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