Industries & Application
Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining
Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)
Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) refers to gold mining activities done by individual miners, or a local village or community with limited capital investment. Most of the time, the tools they used are rather manual or semi-auto for the production.
- Produces up to 20% of the world’s gold
- Involves women and children as part of the labor
- Occurs in countries with high poverty rate/limited economy opportunity
In ASGM activities, metallic mercury is mixed with ore containing traces of gold through the panning process, whole ore amalgamation in sluice boxes, and using ball-mills , trommels, or little rotating drums. The mercury/gold amalgam resulting from the process is roasted using a blow torch in the burning unit on-site, at the gold kiosk, or in the backyard of the houses. Sometimes the process is being done by the whole family, from adults to children.
Mercury from ASGM
As the amalgam is heated, the mercury vaporizes into a gaseous form, leaving behind the small amount of gold concentrates. The mercury vapors are highly toxic if inhaled and can lead to devastating health impacts. Health damages done by mercury are normally irreversible.
Most mercury vapor from this type of gold processing enters the atmosphere and can drift to hundreds of miles away, contributing to widespread global pollution via atmospheric deposition.
The remaining processed water from ore concentration, in conjunction with mercury, will usually be discharged to rivers, on the ground, in ponds or fishponds, and rice fields, contributing to the re-emission of mercury to the food web.