Solve pollution. Save lives. Protect the planet.

Bolivia – ASGM Borax Training and NGO Capacity Building

the details…
Key pollutant
Artisanal gold mining
  • Water
  • Direct contact
Population affected
Children Under 6 Affected
DALYs averted
Gold mining
Plagbol and UNIDO
Project Partners
  • Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS)
  • Dialogos (Denmark)
  • Mount Emerald Mining Cooperative (Philippines)
  • Plagbol

Pure Earth and Plagbol in Bolivia worked collaboratively with several organizations including the Geological Survey of Denmark and Greenland (GEUS), Dialogos (Denmark) and Mount Emerald Mining Cooperative (Philippines) to implement demonstrations of mercury free mining technologies in two communities in Bolivia.

The purpose of this training is to assess the viability of the Borax methodology of gold mining. We would like to convert those involved in ASGM to best practices and mercury free technologies.

The first training occurred in October 2014 in Bolivia to introduce the technology. The results were generally positive and it seems that the proposed methodology functions well in the areas studied. Additionally, borax yielded better results than the current method (mercury).

We have been asked to perform a second larger training of the borax method in Bolivia.  The main issue is the potential for cultural resistance. While one group in the first training embraced the technology, a second group did not want to change.

In Artisanal Gold Mining (ASGM) with mercury, the metal is used to form an amalgam with gold contained in the ore. Several components of this process result in significant environmental releases. Perhaps 1/3 of anthropogenic mercury releases originate in ASGM. Because mercury is an acute neurotoxin, much effort has been exerted internationally to capture these emissions or introduce alternative-mercury free technologies.

The enhanced gravimetric separation method was introduced in Bolivia to segregate gold from ore. No mercury is used in the process. Rather, a series of fine carpets are used to capture pieces of gold as the ore is passed over them in a controlled flow of water. If done properly, this methodology can produce higher yields of gold. If adopted on a large scale in Bolivia, it is believed that a great deal of mercury associated adverse health affects can be averted.