Can borax replace mercury in artisanal gold mining? – or is it better concentration that can replace mercury? Does Borax really have anything to do with it?
Is Borax a Miracle Chemical?
Those promoting borax as a replacement for mercury in small scale gold mining are overselling it and risk giving the impression that there is a miracle cure. They may be well intentioned but they are misleading the world by claiming that borax is a direct replacement for mercury. This is simply not true.
The bar of gold shown here was entirely produced using borax. It was also entirely produced using mercury. How can that be if the word going around is that borax is a replacement for mercury?
It is not. Borax is used in every Artisanal and Small Scale Mining gold shop in the world and has been for a hundred years. It has been used in pottery glazes for centuries for the same reason. It is a flux. Background: if a miner has 10 kilograms of sand that contains 10 grams of gold, t…
The ASGM sector in Guinea is vibrant, growing, and ripe with opportunity. If properly managed, it could create a much needed West African example of best practices in ASGM.
The Artisanal Gold Council (AGC) is engaged in a United
Stated Department of State (USDoS) funded project focused on reducing mercury
use in Francophone West Africa. The project currently is active in Senegal,
Burkina Faso, and Guinea. Here we will discuss the interesting and unique approach
to mercury use in Guinea, which differs from common practices seen in
surrounding West African countries.
gold mining has occurred for centuries in Guinea, there has been significant
growth in modern ASGM in recent years, including the introduction of mercury to
The Guinean ASGM sector is less developed (delayed) compared
with the longer standing activities of surrounding countries (for example in
Mali), and this is reflected in a simplified, less mechanized ASGM sector, and interestingly,
In artisanal gold mining, mercury is essentially used to concentrate the gold. It does this by bonding with the gold to form a heavy amalgam that is then easily separated from the other minerals. It follows therefore, that if mercury is used as a mechanism of concentration, producing concentrates of gold ores through other means can enable reduction or even elimination of mercury use. In other words, a good process of concentration can replace mercury and lead to big environmental and health improvements.
Concentrating gold ores before applying mercury greatly reduces the mass of material that comes into contact with mercury. This reduces the amount of material that becomes contaminated and also the amount of mercury that is required to be applied. And of course, if concentration is done with sufficient sophistication and knowledge, mercury is not needed at all.
As an important first step along the way to eliminating mercury, concentrating avoids a worst practice called whole-ore-ama…