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Abstract Title: Closing the social-technical gap: a framework for humanizing processing in artisanal gold mining
Presenter Name: Mateo Rojas
Company/Institution: Colorado School of Mines
Session: Special Session - Artisanal and Small- Scale Gold Mining - challenges and solutions
Co-Authors: Mateo Rojas,Juan Lucena

Abstract Information :

ASGM has received increased attention in recent years from international and local organizations seeking to reduce the 2000 tons of mercury released into the environment yearly by this sector. Processing plants, the main sources of pollution in ASGM, use mercury to extract only up to 30% of gold from the ore that miners bring to the plants. Most miners do not have the resources to buy expensive gold processing equipment, which is why they bring their ore to these plants to recover their gold at a low cost. Tailings that miners leave behind for payment, which usually contain approximately 70% of the gold, are processed by the plant owners using cyanidation; this process discharges extremely toxic mercury-cyanide into the ecosystem. The relationship between ASGM operators, plant owners, processing plants, and surrounding environments leads to significant negative outcomes including disempowerment of ASGM miners and environmental pollution. Reducing mercury pollution from gold processing has been the focus of environmental and international development organizations, often at the expense of understanding the complex social, economic, and political dimensions surrounding processing plants. Many of these attempts have failed since they examine gold processing plants through either a technical or a social lens instead of through holistic sociotechnical lenses. The goal of this paper is to propose a framework to analyze gold processing plants as a sociotechnical ensemble, which will allow us to propose interventions aimed at improving their practices to empower miners and reduce mercury pollution. To do this, we will show the inadequacy of one-dimensional interventions aimed at investigating or improving ASGM processing practices, outline the sociotechnical analysis framework and its elements (trajectories, alliances, dynamics), provide examples of successful sociotechnical alliances and dynamics in ASGM, and discuss how the this framework may be applied to future efforts seeking to improve gold processing practices.

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