Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

Pure Earth’s global mercury program focuses on reducing mercury poisoning and exposure from gold mining around the world. Mercury is one of the world’s top toxic threats. Much of the mercury released into the environment is the result of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM).

Understanding The Problem: Mercury Poisoning and Exposure

Mercury is a toxic heavy metal and one of the top ten chemicals of major public health concern, according to the World Health Organization. Pure Earth estimates that 19 million people are at risk for exposure to mercury globally.

Mercury poisoning can cause damage to the nervous, digestive, and immune systems, as well as the lungs, kidneys, skin, and eyes. Mercury is particularly dangerous to young children, babies in utero, and pregnant women. The mercury released into the environment knows no borders and contaminates rivers and oceans, fish and other marine animals, and eventually the global food chain.

Pure Earth’s Toxic Sites Identification Program has identified and assessed over 500 sites around the world where exposure to mercury threatens the health of the population.

Photo: Larry C. Price
Severe mercury poisoning can result in limb deformities. 

 Toxic Gold:
Mercury Poisoning and Artisanal Gold Mining

This video explains why and how small-scale gold miners use mercury

The Impact: Mercury Poisoning from Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining

Up to 20% of the world’s gold comes from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) which is responsible for the release 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). As much as 95% of all mercury used in ASGM mining is released into the environment. Once released, mercury travels around the world, dropping into oceans and rivers, contaminating the seafood we all consume.

Photo: Mercury contaminates seafood consumed around the world. Pregnant women, in particular, are often warned to limit their intake. 

Read Pure Earth’s Global Mercury Program Strategy


to Mercury Poisoning and Pollution Across the Globe

Work with governments to identify ASGM sites where mercury use is poisoning children and families and damaging ecosystems.

Assess the extent of mercury contamination in the environment and the level of mercury exposure threatening a community. Educate miners and families on the dangers of mercury use, safe work practices, and methods to protect themselves and their children.

Train miners in safe and profitable mercury-free mining techniques; test a range of remediation approaches to remove mercury.

Replant and restore regions of the Amazon rainforest stripped bare by mining activity. Native tree species are carefully selected for inclusion in landscape restoration. The species offer multiple benefits—ecological, medicinal, economic and more.

Mercury Poisoning Reduction Solutions

Mercury-Free Methods
Mercury-Free Methods
Over 1500 miners trained worldwide

Pure Earth trains miners to go mercury-free, to safeguard their livelihoods and enable them to work safely while protecting their families and environment.

To date, Pure Earth has trained over 1500 miners, including many women, to go mercury-free.

Over 6,000 Mining Community Members Reached

Pure Earth raises awareness about mercury poisoning with miners, their families, school children and others in the community.

Our community education and training programs have reached over 6000 mining community members.

About 10 Hectares of the Amazon Rainforest Restored

Pure Earth is one of the few organizations working directly with miners to safely close out old mining sites through reforestation, which rehabilitates previously degraded ecosystems. Miners Pure Earth has worked within Peru calls it “fulfilling their obligation to the rainforest.

To date, Pure Earth has helped artisanal gold miners in Peru restore about 10 hectares of the Amazon rainforest stripped and polluted by gold mining activity.

Mine to Market Solutions 
Mine to Market Solutions 
Connecting Miners with Jewelry Industry

Pure Earth is working to help create awareness and demand for mercury-free gold and connect jewelers and others in this industry to mercury-free miners.
Our efforts include working with the international jewelry industry to find a mine-to-market solution, and supporting women mining cooperatives in Indonesia, and connecting them with local jewelers who agree to buy their mercury-free gold at a premium.

Reforestation Solutions

Pure Earth is the only organization working directly with artisanal miners to “fulfill their obligation to the rainforest”


Mercury-Free Mining Solutions

Artisanal Mining Grand Challenge:
Interview of Pure Earth’s France Cabanillas 

Our Impact


1100 miners trained in mercury-free techniques.

3750 children, community members, health workers and government officials educated.

Miners, especially women, report increased earnings.

Latin America
Latin America

310 miners trained in mercury-free techniques

550 mining community members and health workers educated

110 mercury sites identified and assessed

10 hectares of rainforest stripped by gold mining restored


200 miners trained in mercury-free techniques

1500 government stakeholders, health workers, miners and community members educated

85 mercury sites identified and assessed

100 retorts/70 water-box-condensers distributed, reducing mercury emissions by 4750 kgs annually

Women’s Working Group organized to give artisanal women miners opportunities to earn more with mercury-free gold


250 mercury sites identified and assessed

10 communities trained to reduce mercury use

Gold Mining in the Amazon Rainforest

Solutions to Poisoning and Pollution


The Toxic Truth

Trapping a Slippery Foe

Pure Earth’s innovative global mercury index explained in The Chemical Engineer magazine.

The Jewelry Industry Can Be A Leader In Solving The Global Issue Of Mercury Pollution From Artisanal & Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)

Why Should the Jewelry Industry Care?

  • Supply chain and reputational risk

> Even best practices cannot ensure that supply chains are completely free of gold from ASGM sources using mercury;

> Without a commitment to mercury-free practices there will always be “dirty” gold that can tarnish the reputation of the industry.

  • Investors, employees and consumers care

> Consumers expect companies to have purpose, societal impact and do no harm;

> Investors are looking for companies that incorporate ESG criteria – profits and purpose are linked;

> Employees want to work for companies that care.

  • It’s the right thing to do

> Being a truly responsible business means going beyond the norm. It means supporting disadvantaged communities and reducing toxic releases. This is true sustainability;

> We have a moral imperative to make the world a better place.

CASE STUDY: See how Brilliant Earth is working with Pure Earth

In an update, Brilliant Earth states in their 2022 report that the company increased Fairmined gold purchases by 27%, from approximately 470 grams to 600 grams, through their work with Pure Earth and the Alliance for Responsible Mining.


The Responsible Jewelry Council features Pure Earth’s work with the jewelry industry in its progress report “Leading Change and Building Trust”

Pure Earth has been working with the jewelry industry to solve this issue.

Explore ways to support Pure Earth’s work, including: