The use of toxic chemicals in artisanal gold mining

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The most common toxic chemicals used in mining are mercury and cyanide which are used in the processing of the gold.

Mercury is mixed with gold-containing materials, forming a mercury-gold amalgam which is then heated, vaporizing the mercury to obtain the gold.

Cyanide leaching is when miners use a cyanide solution to dissolve and separate gold from the ore. When done properly, it is considered a safer alternative as the toxicity of the substance can be deactivated.

If managed irresponsibly cyanide can cause immediate damage.  In contrast, mercury poses a more gradual long term threat to health and the environment. Mercury is a chemical element that comes from both human-made and natural sources. It is not degradable and accumulates in the environment or in the body.

Responsible use of these chemicals is allowed under regular Fairmined Certification (not Ecological Certification). Responsible use includes using mercury recovery methods throughout the process, avoiding emissions into the air, soil and water, proper disposal of waste and the use of trained personnel, protective equipment and suitable places for chemical manipulation.

 

 

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