Sunday, April 23, 2017

Mercury Free Gold Processing

Using mercury amalgamation to separate gold particles from ore is not only dangerous to the health and environment of miners and their families but it is also inefficient. Recovery is an important aspect of efficiency in mining. It is a measurement of how much gold is split from the ore; how much gold goes to concentrate and how much goes to tailings.

In Cholito, Peru at our mercury free processing and training centre, the initial rate of recovery that miners were able to extract through mercury amalgamation was 30%-40%. This means almost half of their gold was lost to tailings! A waste of the resource at a great harm to the planet. 
(In comparison, most large scale gold mines maintain a recovery of over 98%.)

One of the most prominent roles of the AGC is to assist miners to improve their processing techniques and eliminate their use of mercury. The mercury free processing and training systems installed by the AGC are intuitive and easy to use since they are composed of technology the miners are already familiar with. They have improved crushing, milling, sluicing and a shaking table that separates gold from other minerals. And they can even improve their gold recovery by up to 40%.

AGC's mercury free processing and training system in Cholito, Peru

One of the ways in which the AGC promotes a safer, more economical and less harmful ASGM sector worldwide is through better practices, and a key aspect of better practices in ASGM can be a gravimetric circuit. There are many types of gravimetric technologies that can be used to more safely, cleanly and efficiently separate gold particles from the ore. But particle size matters for efficiency. Through gravimetric technologies the high/low density (high relative weight) of gold is taken advantage of.

The traditional processing workflow employed by artisanal miners usually has poor grain size control yielding inadequate gold recovery and is both mercury and dust intensive, causing associated environmental and health issues for not only the miners actively involved in the processing, but members of non-participating surrounding communities as well. To reduce these negative effects, the AGC has developed and improved practices by introducing an alternate processing system with the following components:

1.       Generator: For onsite production of electricity required to power the system.
2.       Scrubber: Removal of clay material from ore by the action of water inside a rotating drum.
3.       Jaw Crusher: Provides the initial grain size reduction of ore by impact energy between two steel plates, it usually delivers a gravel 4 to 8 times smaller than the size of the material fed into it.
4.       Wet Pan Mill or Ball Mill: Further grain size reduction to ensure complete liberation of gold.
5.       Screen: Grain-size control generally used after the milling stage. Its size selection depends on the grain size required for the best gold liberation.
6.       Sluice,shaking table,spirals, jigs: Primary concentration of gold
7.       Flotation: Secondary concentration of gold.
8.       Smelting and Refining Kit: Production of gold ingots.
9.       Tailings Ponds: Storage of mercury free tails and water recirculation.

A workflow option used by the AGC to process gold without the use of mercury.

This system workflow eliminates the need to use mercury in processing while increasing the gold recovery through better and more controlled milling and mineral separation practices. One of the most important improvements to the AGC system is the addition of process control at several stages of the workflow. Primary concentration after the milling process is a key to gold recovery. The grinding control allows for more complete liberation of gold from other minerals in the ore, resulting in improved gold recovery. 

In this general configuration the system is suitable for most ASM scenarios; however, the best workflow may vary slightly between sites depending on things such as mineralogy, size and distribution of gold particles in the ore, location of site, availability of water for processing, and technical skills of operators. Therefore, the adopted workflow is made site specific and optimized based on locally encountered conditions.

Friday, April 21, 2017

Health and Environmental Issues and Solutions

By advancing technology, business practices, governance and policy, the Artisanal Gold Council helps to improve the environment and health of the millions of people involved in ASGM worldwide.

The three pillar approach of the AGC
Mercury use, water consumption, and dust and wastewater management are the main environmental and health concerns associated with ASGM. At many artisanal gold mining sites, miners and their families are susceptible to inhaling both mercury vapour and silica dust, which can cause serious and often irreversible health problems. 

Although the environmental and health issues in ASGM are of serious concern, both can easily be mitigated through education, improved processes and best practices

A ball mill with wet processing keeps silica dust down and helps to recycle water used.

To alleviate health hazards, the AGC:
·               Provides seminars to local health professionals on how to identify and treat health issues that are specific to the ASGM sector, such as exposure to dust and mercury intoxication.
·               Promotes the use of wet milling techniques to suppress and mitigate dust exposure
·               Provides training to miners and processers on the health issues related to ASGM and measures that should be taken to protect their and their family’s health
·               Works with governments around the world to develop national public health strategies to address mercury exposure from ASGM activities
·               Promotes the adoption and use of personal protective equipment at mine sites
·               Has developed research guidelines and tools including surveys and questionnaires which can be used to:
o   Conduct rapid health assessments in mining communities
o   Assess the capacity of local and regional health institutions to deal with health issues related to ASGM

This shaking table separates gold from other minerals without the use of mercury.

To mitigate the environmental impacts, the AGC:
·               Provides access to simple and intuitive mercury-free processing equipment
.               Designs environmental management strategies that can be used by mining communities to reduce the impact of ASGM activities on the environemtn and monitor outcomes
·               Promotes the use of water recycling in processing techniques and workflows
·               Works with governments around the world to develop strategies to promote the reduction of emissions and releases to the environment of mercury, as part of their Minamata Convention commitments

Saturday, April 15, 2017

Minamata and NAPs

The Minamata Convention on Mercury, adopted in 2013, is a world-wide treaty aimed at protecting human health and the environment from mercury’s harmful effects. As the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector is a major anthropogenic source of mercury release and environmental pollution, a specific article targets the sector in the treaty; as per Article 7, countries that are part of the Convention and determine that ASGM and processing are “more than insignificant” in their territory shall develop a National Action Plan (NAP) to reduce, and where feasible, eliminate the use of mercury and mercury compounds in the sector.

The Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) is helping countries, such as Burkina Faso, Ecuador, Gabon, Laos PDR, Mali, Peru and Senegal, to elaborate their NAP, in collaboration with the national governments, the Global Environment Facility (GEF), the United Nations Environment (UN Environment) and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO). As part of the NAP elaboration, the AGC assists countries to develop a national overview of the ASGM sector, including a baseline estimates of mercury use and mining practices. Under this component, AGC provides training to national experts on the methodology used to prepare a mercury inventory for the ASGM sector. 

The national objectives and strategies are defined in consultation with local, regional and national governments, as well as other ASGM stakeholders such as miners, the civil society and academia, through workshops and meetings. During the elaboration of the NAP, the AGC also supports countries to improve the health of miners and ASGM communities by developing a public health strategy for the sector based on the assessment of the health situation of miners and their communities, as well as on the assessment of the institutional capacity of the health sector. Awareness is also raised during the project on the risks related to mercury use in ASGM to human health and the environment. 

The AGC has several NAP project on the go and many more pending. Click here for an updated review of the NAPs we are working on.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Spring Check Up – Looking Bright!

✅ 10 Countries;
✅ 5 Languages;
✅ Millions of rural poor positively impacted with better health, safety and economic conditions.

This February is shaping up to be one of the most influential months in AGC’s history. And we are rolling into the Spring with more momentum than ever.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

SMS System Helps Miners Get Better Value for Their Gold

Artisanal gold miners often operate in remote areas where they work long and hard extracting and processing ore to produce small batches of gold. This gold is then sold to a local gold buyer; however, because the price of gold fluctuates daily in international markets, one of the challenges for artisanal miners in these remote areas is having access to the daily spot price of gold in order to ensure they are receiving a fair price.

Wednesday, November 16, 2016

Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining and Canada’s Post 2015 Development Priorities by Dr. Kevin Telmer

Canada and Artisanal Mining
Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM), recognized as a huge development opportunity in 70+ countries by the world's international institutions, is playing a vital role in eradicating poverty for the world’s poorest and most vulnerable. It is a remarkable sector that deeply touches Canada’s history and development. Artisanal mining played a significant role in creating wealth and economic diversity in early Canadian history (~1850 - 1930), and the evolution of that sector into Canada’s modern natural resources industry tells a good part of the story of the evolution of Canadian governance systems.  

Monday, November 7, 2016

Improving Occupational Health for Artisanal Miners in Peru: Monitoring and reducing mercury and respirable silica in ASGM.

The Artisanal Gold Council works to improve the health of miners worldwide. As part of ‘Mejorando la Pequeña Minería Artesanal de oro’ (MEJORO), our 5 year project in Peru, we are working with local miners to improve practices and reduce environmental and health impacts at processing sites. Mercury vapour and respirable silica dust exposure have previously been highlighted as key health concerns within the Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sector, and the Minamata Convention specifically targets the elimination of mercury use in the sector.

Our integrated approach to improving occupational health not only seeks to raise awareness on health issues in ASGM, but also to provide practical and accessible alternatives and the necessary training and resources to assist artisanal miners in improving their work environment.