Mercury pollution in artisanal and small scale gold mining

In the last topic 'Mercury pollution from mercury use in ancient Japan', we told you that mercury was historically used for gold plating. You may have thought this is just a story of the past.

Actually even today there are still over 10 million people in the world working in artisanal and small scale gold mining (ASGM) and they are exposing themselves to pollutants and toxins such as mercury.

ASGM in Sierra Leone

Mercury is used to purify gold from ore in a process called amalgamation. Miners and their families often inhale toxic mercury vapors through this process, and mercury can pollute homes and communities. For more details on gold processing and mercury pollution in ASGM, please refer to the video at

Technical solutions already exist that could dramatically lower the use and release of mercury in ASGM, and in numerous cases, eliminate the need for mercury all together.

However the Minamata Convention on Mercury does not require a ban of mercury use in ASGM, although restrictions on the supply and trade of mercury will likely make it more expensive and difficult to acquire.

This is not a simple issue because ASGM is deeply connected with the problem of poverty. In order to eliminate the use of mercury in ASGM, long term education programs and financial support from the international community are required.