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Reducing global mercury emissions in artisanal and small-scale gold mining

April 28, 2016

Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is the largest source of human-caused mercury emissions, surpassing even coal-burning. With more than 15 million small-scale gold miners operating in more than 70 countries today, finding a way to reduce mercury emissions is vital. 

Addressing mercury emissions in small-scale gold mining

The Minamata Convention on Mecury is leading the international effort to bring down emissions. It provides for controls and reductions across production, processing, and industries where mercury is used, released, or emitted. The treaty also addresses the direct mining of mercury, its export and import, and safe storage of waste mercury. Countries that have ratified the Convention have developed National Action Plans on artisanal and small-scale gold mining in response. The Artisanal Gold Council is working to support developing countries in their efforts by providing mercury inventory procedures and training programs. 

The Council's online database MercuryWatch monitors the reduction of mercury emissions in ASGM activities worldwide. With help from anIDRC grant, the Council has improved the website to better display and map mercury emissions. The Council was also able to post new data on ASGM and mercury in Burkina Faso, Côte d'Ivoire, and Nicaragua online.

This project also contributed to capacity-building and awareness-raising activities in several developing countries. Burkina Faso has since established the country's first mercury-free processing system and training centre.

Next steps

The Artisanal Gold Council aims to keep working with the informal sector in many countries to improve people’s knowledge of the risks of working with mercury, to educate miners on alternative methods of gold extraction, and gather new data on artisanal mining and mercury use for the MercuryWatch website.

Read the final report: