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Mercury Recycling in Artisanal Gold Mining: The Good and the Bad

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The promotion of simple mercury recycling technologies called retorts to reduce human exposures and environmental contamination is one of the most widely recommended interventions in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) communities. However if they aren't introduced correctly, retorts are often abandoned or misused, which wastes resources and develops cynicism from miners, prevents reduction of environmental contamination, and in some casesactually increases mercury exposures.

Retorts are relatively simple devices that condense and collect the mercury vapour released from heating gold mercury amalgam. The collection and capture of mercury is important to reduce both the amount of mercury contamination released into the air and to reduce direct human exposure. There are many different types of retorts – from simple kitchen bowl retorts made from a series of bowls purchased from the local market, to custom welded retorts with water-cooled condensers. Retorts are relatively …