• 12 hours Oil Pares Gains After API Reports Surprise Crude Inventory Build
  • 12 hours Elon Musk Won’t Get Paid Unless Tesla Does “Extraordinarily Well”
  • 13 hours U.S. Regulators Keep Keystone Capacity Capped At 80 Percent
  • 13 hours Trump Signs Off On 30 Percent Tariff On Imported Solar Equipment
  • 15 hours Russian Funds May Invest In Aramco’s IPO To Boost Oil Ties
  • 16 hours IMF Raises Saudi Arabia Growth Outlook On Higher Oil Prices
  • 18 hours China Is World’s Number-2 In LNG Imports
  • 1 day EIA Weekly Inventory Data Due Wednesday, Despite Govt. Shutdown
  • 1 day Oklahoma Rig Explodes, Leaving Five Missing
  • 1 day Lloyd’s Sees No Room For Coal In New Investment Strategy
  • 2 days Gunmen Kidnap Nigerian Oil Workers In Oil-Rich Delta Area
  • 2 days Libya’s NOC Restarts Oil Fields
  • 2 days US Orion To Develop Gas Field In Iraq
  • 4 days U.S. On Track To Unseat Saudi Arabia As No.2 Oil Producer In the World
  • 4 days Senior Interior Dept. Official Says Florida Still On Trump’s Draft Drilling Plan
  • 4 days Schlumberger Optimistic In 2018 For Oilfield Services Businesses
  • 4 days Only 1/3 Of Oil Patch Jobs To Return To Canada After Downturn Ends
  • 5 days Statoil, YPF Finalize Joint Vaca Muerta Development Deal
  • 5 days TransCanada Boasts Long-Term Commitments For Keystone XL
  • 5 days Nigeria Files Suit Against JP Morgan Over Oil Field Sale
  • 5 days Chinese Oil Ships Found Violating UN Sanctions On North Korea
  • 5 days Oil Slick From Iranian Tanker Explosion Is Now The Size Of Paris
  • 5 days Nigeria Approves Petroleum Industry Bill After 17 Long Years
  • 5 days Venezuelan Output Drops To 28-Year Low In 2017
  • 6 days OPEC Revises Up Non-OPEC Production Estimates For 2018
  • 6 days Iraq Ready To Sign Deal With BP For Kirkuk Fields
  • 6 days Kinder Morgan Delays Trans Mountain Launch Again
  • 6 days Shell Inks Another Solar Deal
  • 6 days API Reports Seventh Large Crude Draw In Seven Weeks
  • 6 days Maduro’s Advisors Recommend Selling Petro At Steep 60% Discount
  • 7 days EIA: Shale Oil Output To Rise By 1.8 Million Bpd Through Q1 2019
  • 7 days IEA: Don’t Expect Much Oil From Arctic National Wildlife Refuge Before 2030
  • 7 days Minister Says Norway Must Prepare For Arctic Oil Race With Russia
  • 7 days Eight Years Late—UK Hinkley Point C To Be In Service By 2025
  • 7 days Sunk Iranian Oil Tanker Leave Behind Two Slicks
  • 7 days Saudi Arabia Shuns UBS, BofA As Aramco IPO Coordinators
  • 7 days WCS-WTI Spread Narrows As Exports-By-Rail Pick Up
  • 7 days Norway Grants Record 75 New Offshore Exploration Leases
  • 7 days China’s Growing Appetite For Renewables
  • 8 days Chevron To Resume Drilling In Kurdistan
Alt Text

Can Mali Maintain Its Gold Mining Status?

Mali could be about to…

Alt Text

Expect Mine Closures In This Key Gold Mining Nation

Major gold mining nation South…

Alt Text

Did These Mining Giants Just Confirm The Next Gold Frontier?

After Ecuador’s President removed a…

Gold Mining Boom Increasing Mercury Pollution Risk

Gold Mining Boom Increasing Mercury Pollution Risk

In order to maximize gold extraction, mercury is often used to amalgamate with the metal. The gold is then produced by boiling away the mercury from the amalgam, a process which is hazardous owing to the toxicity of mercury vapor. Mercury is effective in extracting very small gold particles, but should be reclaimed in an effective and safe process.

With the price of gold at record levels. the small-scale mining sector, much of it illegal and unregulated, is expanding worldwide faster than at anytime in history and, with it, the health threats posed by mercury. This global gold rush began in Brazil in the late 1970s, before sweeping South America, Asia, and Africa, with an estimated 15 to 20 million prospectors now active in more than 60 countries.

Poverty driven miners rely on inexpensive, outdated, polluting technologies and chemicals because it is what they can afford. Mercury can vaporize and exposure to concentrations above 0.1 mg/m3 can be harmful. At this level, humans cannot detect the Mercury and can be exposed until harmed.

While most gold is produced by major corporations, tens of thousands of people work independently in smaller, artisan operations, in some cases illegal. In Ghana, for instance, the galamseys, independent mine workers, are estimated to number 20,000 to 50,000. In neighboring countries, such workers are called orpailleurs. In Brazil, such workers are called garimpeiros.

A total of about 165,000 tons of gold have been mined in human history, as of 2009. The world consumption of new gold produced is about 50% in jewelry, 40% in investments, and 10% in industry.

Gold mining is Colombia’s fastest growing industry, with 200,000 small-scale miners producing more than 50 percent of the country’s gold. This growth has turned Colombia into the world’s leading per-capita emitter of mercury, especially in states such as Antioquia.

Ground-level concentrations of mercury gas in gold-processing hamlets like Segovia are so high, experts fear the outbreak of an environmental health crisis worse than any caused by mercury since Minamata, Japan, where releases of mercury from a factory in the mid-20th century killed more than 1,700 people.

Mercury exposure has shown effects such as tremors, impaired cognitive skills, and sleep disturbance in workers with chronic exposure to mercury vapor even at low concentrations   Slightly higher exposure have resulted in chest pain, dyspnea, cough, hemoptysis, impairment of pulmonary function, and evidence of interstitial pneumonitis. Acute exposure to mercury vapor has been shown to result in profound central nervous system effects, including psychotic reactions characterized by delirium, hallucinations, and suicidal tendency.  

After the birth of industrial-scale mining in the late 19th century, small-scale mining receded to the corners of crumbling, impoverished Columbian states, offering a refuge for the poor. Unlike larger scale industrial mining operations, small scale mines never abandoned mercury. Cheap, abundant, and easy to use, mercury used in gold mining causes significant mercury pollution. But because of a widespread perception that small-scale mining was no longer a global force, serious efforts to document these toxic emissions only began recently.

In Colombia, two modest technical adjustments (adding mercury after, rather than during, the grinding of ores, and capturing its vapor in ovens) could eliminate nearly all mercury emissions. However, most miners and processors lack the resources to change.

By. Andy Soos




Back to homepage


Leave a comment

Leave a comment




Oilprice - The No. 1 Source for Oil & Energy News