Articles

Calling for a holistic approach to mercury reduction

© Kike Arnal

January 2013

Reducing and eliminating the use of mercury in Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining (ASGM) is no doubt a complicated issue and a big challenge that needs the attention and engagement of many different parties. The use of mercury threatens the environment, human health and moreover the lives of the miners using it, their families and communities. The Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) recognizes that processes need to be implemented to reduce mercury use and insists that these processes must take precedence in formalization of the sector and in creating alternatives and opportunities for Artisanal and Small-scale miners.

ARM welcomes the report "Mercury - Time to Act" presented by UNEP and the new data on mercury use, and invites governments and the Intergovernmental Negotiating Committee (INC) to extend the proposed holistic approach for ASGM in chapter "Acting Now" beyond measures such as introduction of techniques and mercury capturing devices, which mainly address only the symptoms. The causes of all environmental and occupational health and safety deficiencies in the ASGM sector, among which mercury emissions are only one of many problems, are poverty, marginalization and exclusion from the mining sector. A true holistic approach needs to be based on national policies aiming for development of the ASGM sector, sustainable livelihoods for miners' communities and inclusion of ASGM in the formal economy. ARM also calls for disclosure and public accessibility of the database used to compile the statistics published in the report as well as of other available data and new information on the issue to facilitate further public participation, research and additional interpretations. It is of central importance that all interested parties have access to the methodologies adopted in the assessment of ASGM mercury data.

Artisanal and Small-scale miners and ARM continue to underscore the importance of national governments implementing formalization processes and politics for training, access to clean technologies and credit for the ASGM sector. The implementation of these processes requires a long term vision. Not implementing such policies will only lead to:

  • further exclusion and vulnerability of ASGM miners, their families and communities, and
  • creation of a black market for mercury controlled by the same criminal networks that are already oppressing mining communities and ecosystems.

It is commonly accepted that ASGM plays one of the most important roles in generating direct and indirect income for millions of impoverished people and therefore in reaching the Millennium Development Goals, and ARM continues to insist that miners must be heard and included in discussions and initiatives affecting them.

ARM strongly opposes the generated criminalization and demonization of ASGM that almost always fail to mention the complexity of the issue and fail to account for the fact that ASGM provides 90% of the workforce in international gold mining and supports the livelihood of 70 to 100 million people in rural areas worldwide.

This sector is here to stay, and the issue of mercury is not one that can be solved by simple solutions.

Download the press release.

For more information please contact:

Maria Laura Barreto, Chair of the Alliance for Responsible Mining, who is available for interviews in Geneva.

tel: +33 6 61 36 12 30 and email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.

Siri Teilmann-Ibsen, Communications Coordinator.

tel: (+574) 3324711 and email: This email address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it.