COLOMBIA

Rural Development and Empowerment of the Communitarian Councils of the Chocó Department Through the Sustainable Use of Natural and Mineral Resources – Output 1 (2020-2022)

Funded by the European Union, implemented by UNIDO and the Government of Colombia, this project has three main outputs, with the Artisanal Gold Council responsible for executing Output 1 of this 36-month project. Output 1 is focused on capacitating the Community Council in good environmental and social practices in order to contribute to a responsible gold mining sector, minimize and mitigate its environmental impacts, and prevent financial flows into illegal activities.

The objective of the overall project is to reduce the negative social and environmental impacts of artisanal and small-scale gold mining and the related uncontrolled deforestation, through the empowerment of local communities situated in Istmina, found in the Department of Chocó, in the north-western part of Colombia. The project aims to demonstrate the viability and benefits of a sustainable and inclusive use of the local natural resources, particularly gold ores and forestry products, while contributing to territorial peace, and enhancing the livelihoods of the project recipients.

Partners: European Union, UNIDO, Government of Colombia, and COCOMIMSA.

PERU

Reducing the Supply of Mercury Available for use in the Andean Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Sector (2017-2018) and Increased Transparency and Control of Mercury in Peru (2018-2021)

Funded by two consecutive Federal Assistance Grants through the United States Department of State (Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs) the goal of these programs is to reduce the use of mercury in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) industry in Peru. While the initial project was examining strategies for reducing the supply of mercury available by accelerating the development of adequate facilities and strategies for interim storage of mercury, the lengthier follow-up project will be focused on supporting Peru’s government agencies to increase transparency, traceability, and control over the elemental mercury handling system  through the development of practical policies, regulations, infrastructure and tools for handling, tracking, and securing mercury.

Enhancing the Artisanal Gold Mining Sector in Peru (2016-2018)

The AGC implemented a project in Peru with the support of Global Affairs Canada and in partnership with Red Social to reduce mercury emissions in Peruvian ASGM. This is a Pilot Project funded by the Government of Canada and supported by the Government of Peru in implementation of Peru’s National Action Plan due to the recent ratification of the Minamata Convention. This project was named: MEJORO (Mejorando la Pequeña Minería Artesanal de oro en el Perú). The Peru project aligns with AGC’s aim of reducing mercury emissions and enhancing ASGM extraction practices around the globe. It tackles the ASGM issue in four regions of Peru through three main pillars: 1) enhancing the practices of miners towards ASGM (technical, environmental, health, reducing the supply of mercury available for use in the Andean Artisanal and Small-scale Gold Mining Sector safety, and gender sensitive practices) through the implementation of gravimetric processing systems; 2) support different governmental levels on their understanding of the Minamata Convention and OECD due diligence process, as to its well as providing assistance to its different programs regarding ASM, such as the formalization process for artisanal miners and its environmental monitoring among the most important; and 3) create an efficient supply chain for responsible artisanal gold that allows its tracking from the mines to the international markets to allow the miners access to better prices for their gold. AGC studies indicate that artisanal gold miners recover between 35%-40% of their gold on average using mercury and that because standard gravimetric processes allow around the same percentage of recovery without using mercury, miners are not always eager to try them. Therefore, in order to reduce mercury, but also grab the attention of the miners, this Project is based on the implementation of gravimetric plants with a processing system created by AGC that allow miners recovery up to 70% of gold. This will not only attract miners to the new methods but also constitute the basis for the three pillar aims to be achieved. Presentation slides outlining the project activities are available here.

National Action Plan on Mercury for the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector (2016-2018)

As the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector is a major source of mercury release and environmental pollution in the world, the Minamata Convention requires countries with more than insignificant use of mercury in ASGM operations to develop a National Action Plan (NAP). The AGC is supporting countries to prepare their NAP to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury and mercury compounds in the sector. Within each country the AGC will develop a national analysis of the ASGM sector, including a baseline inventory of mercury use and mining practices. The analysis will provide the basis for identifying national objectives, as well as setting targets and strategies to eliminate worst practices and facilitate the formalization of the sector. The intent of working on each NAP is also to improve the health of the miners and ASGM communities by developing a public health strategy for the sector. The strategy will be based on the health situation and institutional capacity needs assessments that will be conducted by the AGC. Awareness will be raised on the risks of mercury use and also on the development of the NAP among relevant stakeholders. To conclude, the AGC will support these governments to endorse their NAPs, define schedules for their implementation and officially submit them to the Minamata Convention Secretariat. In partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF)

SURINAME

Abating Mercury Emissions via Mobile Processing Units for Small-Scale Gold Processing in Suriname (2018-2022)

Funded by a Federal Assistance Grant through the United States Department of State (Bureau of Oceans and International Environmental and Scientific Affairs) the goal of the program is to reduce the use of mercury in the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) industry in Suriname through the introduction of mobile mercury free processing systems. The project will be implemented in coordination with local educational institutions as a means of capacity building within the country and to ensure sustainability of the results.

Reducing the Use and Release of Mercury by Artisanal Gold Miners in Latin America (2015-2016)

In 2015 the AGC embarked on a USDoS funded project to improve our understanding of the Surinamese ASGM sector, and to begin to develop potential collaborative models and approaches towards mercury reduction in the country’s widespread alluvial ASGM operations. The AGC project in Suriname reviewed the Surinamese ASGM sector through a combination of stakeholder interviews, literature reviews, and field visits to better understand current realities, mercury usage, and potential for technical interventions. The culmination of this effort has been the production of a Suriname ASGM sector report, completed in collaboration between the AGC and the Paramaribo based consultancy Social Solutions. The report aims to provide the reader with a comprehensive introduction to the ASGM sector, including a legal assessment of the current regulatory framework and formality of the sector, an overview of mining and processing practices currently employed, inventory estimates for ASGM workforce (11,000-15,000), annual gold production (18.9 T), and annual mercury use (63.0 T), and assessment of existing supply chains. Suriname ASGM Sector Report (produced in collaboration between the AGC and Paramaribo based consultancy Social Solutions). The project also assessed the potential for mercury reduction through technical interventions, and found willingness from various stakeholders including miners, government, NGOs and private industry to identify and develop alternatives to mercury use in ASGM. While many groups have interest in achieving this goal, there is need for a coordinated effort to deploy the experience and knowledge of the various groups towards a Suriname specific mercury free solution. Suriname offers an excellent opportunity for the development of a collaborative approach between ASGM and LSM mining operations towards a more responsible gold mining sector as a whole, and is an excellent candidate location to pilot ASGM/LSM collaborative models.

ECUADOR

National Action Plan on Mercury for the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining Sector (2018-2020)

As the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector is a major source of mercury release and environmental pollution in the world, the Minamata Convention requires countries with more than insignificant use of mercury in ASGM operations to develop a National Action Plan (NAP). The AGC is supporting countries to prepare their NAP to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury and mercury compounds in the sector. Within each country the AGC will develop a national analysis of the ASGM sector, including a baseline inventory of mercury use and mining practices. The analysis will provide the basis for identifying national objectives, as well as setting targets and strategies to eliminate worst practices and facilitate the formalization of the sector. The intent of working on each NAP is also to improve the health of the miners and ASGM communities by developing a public health strategy for the sector. The strategy will be based on the health situation and institutional capacity needs assessments that will be conducted by the AGC. Awareness will be raised on the risks of mercury use and also on the development of the NAP among relevant stakeholders. To conclude, the AGC will support these governments to endorse their NAPs, define schedules for their implementation and officially submit them to the Minamata Convention Secretariat. In partnership with the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) and the Global Environment Facility (GEF).

NICARAGUA

Reducing the Use and Release of Mercury by Artisanal Gold Miners in Latin America (2013-2016)

The AGC’s 3 year USDoS funded project in Nicaragua, from 2013-2016, was focused on developing a technical and governance model to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate mercury use from the country’s ASGM sector. Whole ore mercury amalgamation is prevalent throughout the artisanal mining regions of Nicaragua. Processing is predominantly conducted using a rudimentary milling and amalgamation system referred to as “the rastra”. The AGC project worked to develop small-scale processing alternatives to replace these rastras with gravimetric processing systems. The AGC vision developed for Nicaragua consisted of a hub and spoke model, where a series of primary gravimetric systems replace rastras and other small-scale processing systems, providing tails for secondary treatment via central cyanidation. The AGC worked in collaboration with the Ministry of Energy and Mines (MEM) and local mining cooperative La Fragua in an attempt to install a pilot gravimetric processing plant to replace an existing rastra in the Department of Chinandega. The AGC assisted the mining cooperative throughout the formalization process, and worked together with MEM and MARENA to acquire mining and environmental permits for installation of the processing system. Currently in Nicaragua, nearly all of the ~1000 ASGM processing operations are operating informally, without having completed the environmental and permitting requirements set out in the legislation for the installation or operation of such metallic mineral processing systems. The reason is largely the lengthy, costly, and unrealistic process, and lack of differentiation of requirements for processing system evaluations, regardless of production capacity. Despite the design, development and importation of a mercury free processing system destined for the La Fragua Cooperative mining site, the project was unable to negotiate the environmental and formal requirements for the installation of the plant, and ultimately the installation never occurred. This process provided insight into the barriers and complications ASGM communities face in attempting to formalize, a primary driver to the continued informality of the sector. Nicaragua ASGM Sector Report (produced by AGC). 

The project was successful in assessing the country’s ASGM sector, and produced a sector overview report aimed to introduce the reader to various aspects of ASGM in Nicaragua. The report includes information on the current mining and processing practices, formal requirements and formalization process, inventory data for mercury use, gold production and miner populations, and additional information on potential mercury reduction models for the sector. Finally, a detailed regional inventory assessment was conducted for the Chontales Department. A Chontales department inventory report has been produced to highlight and elaborate the inventory process, on the ground realities of ASGM in Chontales, and to serve as an inventory case study for others wishing to develop regional inventory estimates.