The inadvertent release of mercury by millions of artisanal gold miners has been a crisis for the jewelry industry for decades. Mercury toxins are increasingly polluting our soil, water, and air, causing health and environmental impacts far beyond the mining communities.
In 2020, Mercury Free Mining and the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM), a Colombian NGO, began working together to identify mine sites in South America to initiate a mercury-free processor testing program. Sites were considered based on their mercury use and a need to improve living conditions.
Then in 2021, a generous grant from the Gemological Institute of America (GIA), enabled ARM and MFM to launch a program with two Peruvian mining communities. The goal was to analyze tools and processes with the greatest potential to eliminate the use of mercury. Six processors were identified by MFM. A study was designed to examine each alternative from the standpoint of cost, practicality, and output.
While the various processors produced a range of results, the GOLDROP processor produced surprising and promising gold recovery rates across the ore types.
MFM CEO Toby Pomeroy stated: “I’m thrilled by the preliminary test results we’re seeing from GOLDROP, and I can’t wait to see if it performs as well in mercury-dependent mining communities. Safe, effective gold ore concentration that enables miners to live healthier, more profitable lives will be a dream come true for millions of people.”
While these lab findings are encouraging, and more positive than the MFM and ARM teams had anticipated, the program now is shifting to provide the gold miners with the GOLDROP to test the equipment for themselves.
Gina D’Amato, ARM’s Executive Director stated: “At ARM, we are convinced that sustainable development is only possible from an inclusive perspective. ASM (artisanal small mining) communities can be part of the solution when they have access to technological and training alternatives such as the ones we are developing together with MFM. These actions, together with access to formal and fair markets, support dignified livelihoods.”
Due to current political unrest in Peru, the research and processor testing will continue in San Antonio, a village of 500 in Antioquia, Colombia that depends on gold mining to survive. San Antonio’s gold ore will be analyzed and the efficiency of various processors in separating fine gold particles without mercury will be tested.
Once field testing is complete a more detailed analysis of the lab and field-testing phases will be released.
Susan Jacques, President, and CEO of GIA said: “Today, more than ever, it is imperative that our industry operate in a responsible and sustainable way. In addition to each of us doing what we can in our own operations, we can and should invest in others who are pointing the way to making real change. We are proud to support this program as part of our commitment to our mission of ensuring the public trust in gems and jewelry.”
For more information about supporting mining communities in achieving mercury-free gold processing, please contact MFM by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.