Much of the mercury released into the environment is the result of small-scale and artisanal gold mining (ASGM). Mercury used in the gold separation process (known as “amalgamation”) results in the discharge of an estimated 1,000 tons of mercury annually, representing about 30% of the world’s anthropogenic mercury releases according to United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO).
Once mercury pollution reaches waterways, it is transform into methylmercury—one of the most toxic organic compounds and a powerful neurotoxin. According to UNIDO, as much as 95 percent of all mercury used in ASGM mining is released into the environment.
Pure Earth has conducted more than 500 field assessments of sites contaminated with mercury. Our strategies have proven effective in addressing mercury contamination. Our approach includes:
- Rapid Environmental And Health Risk Assessments
- Site Prioritization And Project Selection
- Detailed Environmental And Health Risk Assessments
- Conceptual Site Modeling
- Alternative Remediation Analysis
- Remediation and Risk Reduction Strategies
Download our Global Mercury Program guide to see strategies and more project examples.
Some Recent Mercury Projects:
Pure Earth is working to strengthen the capacity of the Government to address mercury pollution from artisanal gold mining activities. The project includes assessing sites for contamination and degradation, and developing community-driven remediation plans and strategies for alternative livelihoods and mercury-free ASGM practices.
- Learn more about this project.
- In Photos: Teaching Artisanal Gold Miners To Extract Gold Without Mercury
Over the last 20 years, Mongolia has experienced a surge in the number of people engaging in the practice of small-scale and artisanal gold mining (ASGM). Since 1990, the number of miners has increased from zero to an estimated 100,000, and currently represents 20% of the rural workforce.
Pure Earth has been working to educate artisanal gold miners in several regions of Mongolia about the dangers of using mercury in the mining process, and to promote switching to the much safer method of mining without the use of mercury.
To date, Pure Earth has trained over 1000 miners in mercury-free gold mining methods, with many more miners on the waiting list.