Recognizing that, “Urgent action is needed to protect millions of men, women and children exposed to toxic levels of mercury through gold production every year,” Global Environment Facility (GEF) yesterday launched a US$180M programme that aims to assess the “hidden cost of gold.”
The programme called—Global Opportunities for Long-term Development (GOLD) of the Artisan and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector—was launched in London.
The programme will be of benefit to artisanal miners across eight countries while slashing harmful mercury emissions. These countries are Burkina Faso, Colombia, Guyana, Indonesia, Kenya, Mongolia, Philippines and Peru.
GEF is using Conservation International (CI) – Guyana as its partner to roll out the programme here.
GEF and CI sent out a missive to the media noting that as many as 15 million people work in the ASGM sector globally, including 4.5 million women and over 600,000 children.
From smart phones to wedding rings, gold passes through all of our hands every day, but for most of us the source of that gold, and its real cost, remains a mystery” said Gustavo Fonseca GEF Director of Programs.
He said that introducing safe, mercury-free technologies into the ASGM sector will help provide a safe transition to job formality and dignified work for millions, while putting an end to the environmental impacts that can pave the way to sustainably produced gold.
GEF also noted that every year, more than 2,700 tonnes of gold is mined around the world. Twenty percent of that—over 500 tonnes—annually is produced by artisanal and small-scale miners.
GEF said that artisanal miners and processors, the majority of them in developing countries, work in often harsh conditions, without the protection of industry regulations on pay, health or safety to sate the global hunger for gold for jewellery, investment and consumer products. With many miners relying on toxic, mercury-based extraction methods, the ASGM sector is also the world’s single largest source of man-made mercury emissions, releasing as much as 1,000 tonnes of mercury.
“By phasing out mercury use and connecting miners to markets for responsibly produced and sourced minerals, GEF GOLD will help to ensure the gold value chain both supports miners and provides consumers with access to ethically produced, environmentally sustainable gold,” Jacob Duer Head of the UN Environment Chemicals and Health branch said
Studies indicate that mercury exposure in artisanal and small-scale miners is a major largely neglected global health problem putting miners and their communities at risk of impacts from permanent brain damage to seizures, vision and hearing loss, and delayed childhood development.
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