The temporary mercury storage unit will be a collection point for mercury to ensure its responsible final disposal.
Bogota, Colombia. June 2023. Pure Earth delivered the first temporary mercury storage unit in Colombia to the Corporación Autónoma Regional para la Defensa de la Meseta de Bucaramanga (CDMB) as an environmental authority. The delivery of the storage unit is part of the technical cooperation agreement between Pure Earth Colombia and the U.S. Department of State for the promotion of the recovery and responsible management of mercury in contaminated tailings from artisanal gold mining in Colombia.
“We do this for the future of the country, for the impact that this pollutant has on children, and to ensure the rights of all. Infinite gratitude to the CDMB for their audacity and determination to be the first- it is not easy to be the first, but the results are worth it. Our eternal gratitude and willingness to continue working on this process,” said Lizeth Olaya Zambrano, Director of Pure Earth Colombia.
The storage unit has a capacity of up to 300 liters exclusively for the temporary storage of metallic mercury. It is a first step in promoting the responsible disposal of mercury in the country and thereby reaffirming Colombia’s commitment to the Minamata Convention.
This project was supported by the Ministry of Mines and Energy and the Ministry of Environment and Sustainable Development, with the special participation of the Attorney General’s Office, a strategic entity for the articulation of processes of knowledge transfer and appropriation by miners and territorial environmental entities.
“Santander is the first region in Colombia that will be in charge of storing mercury. It is a great achievement because we are the only ones in Latin America and it is of transcendental importance”, emphasized Margarita Cabello, Attorney General of the Nation.
Gustavo Adolfo Guerrero, Delegate Attorney for Environmental and Agrarian Affairs, said: “The CDMB has led the implementation of a mercury monitoring system in water sources, particularly in the Suratá River, to prevent mercury with high levels of concentration from affecting the health of the inhabitants of the metropolitan area”.
Over the last 5 years, Pure Earth has implemented the project “Promoting the recovery and responsible management of mercury in contaminated tailings from artisanal gold mining in Colombia”, funded by the U.S. Department of State, to identify good practices and increasing the understanding of the context of artisanal and small-scale mining in the country. The project delivered a sustainable model that allows capturing mercury present in contaminated tailings for subsequent disposal.
This model is supported by technical protocols for the management of contaminated tailings, supported by ongoing training of miners. With the support of Pure Earth Global and with the commitment of the Pure Earth Colombia team, the work in the search for sustainable solutions for the care of the environment and the health of Colombians is progressing.
Technical specifications of the first mercury storage unit:
– It has a temperature range of 2 to 12 degrees Celsius.
– It has additional packaging of the mercury being collected.
– It has a capacity of 300 liters and is maintained at 80% of its total.
– It is of a temporary type, and at the end of the process, it is disposed of in a responsible manner.
– Its operation is in accordance with Colombian legislation.
Angie Tatiana Ortega, Technical Leader and Project Coordinator for Pure Earth Colombia, explained that the technical development of this temporary storage unit took approximately 10 months. Below are the phases of the project:
Phase 1: Conceptualization, technical preparation, and adjustments at the basic engineering level of the operation.
Phase 2: Installation and delivery of the temporary mercury storage unit.
Phase 3: Preparation of protocols for the methodological processes and review for commissioning.
“Consolidating the technical principles of storage of a substance such as mercury, protocols for handling and disposal of this metal at national and international level, and adapting it to the needs and requirements of the environmental authority is not only an engineering milestone but also a logistical one,” says Ortega.
In the media…