Artisanal Gold Mining - Problems Solutions and Opportunities

Province Loba 50 meters underground Since 2001, artisanal gold mining communities have sprung up around West Africa, In many respect it resembles the gold rush of the nine teenth century. These cities were mere fields before they came artisanal miners. His arrival created wealth and a flourishing secondary economy that drove the development of regulations, systems of land tenure, infrastructure and economic diversification.

It is fascinating to see that almost the same phenomena that occurred in the gold rush are happening again today. Although artisanal gold mining has been active since antiquity, the sector in West Africa has grown dramatically since 2001, driven by rising gold price and the lack of alternative opportunities. Many farmers and herdsmen have entered the sector of artisanal gold mining and now they use their profits to improve their farming activities.

In artisanal gold mining we see a direct transfer of wealth which it is unique to other products sold on the international market. For most agricultural products, for example, those who buy in the grocery store, only a small fraction of that profit back to the small original producer, often less than 20%. Even for social brand products, the percentage is only moderately higher.

For example, the banana cooperatives receive about a dollar for 18 kilos of bananas, less than 20%. On the other hand, artisanal miners earn a minimum of 70% to 80% of the international price. This is unheard of in other goods.

Artisanal gold mining is a massive and download wealth from rich to poor, but also has an amplification effect. The local secondary economy is typically five or six times larger than the primary economy, the value of gold.

Miners use their profits to pay for hardware products, mining supplies, food, clothing, transportation, communications, medicine, all things that sell local businesses and people of that service sector, in turn do the same.

Thus they are circulating gold profits, building a large and diverse local economy. Motorcycle dealers, home improvement, telecommunications, health services, infrastructure and schools often appear in cities in connection artisanal gold mines. One of the great problems of artisanal gold mining is mercury.

Mercury is cheap and therefore affordable means for processing the gold, but it is also a deadly neurotoxin that can cause permanent damage to the nervous system, and even death. It is also a poor extraction method, which normally gets about 40% of the gold that is in the mineral, therefore wasting resource.

Although problems like mercury poisoning, exposure to silica dust, child labor and other criminal activity may be present in artisanal mining sites around West Africa, governments often overlook the positive benefits.

Governments and the media have a history of condemnation and demonization of artisanal gold mining without really properly understand the sector without offering solutions. However, artisanal gold mining is now universally recognized by international agencies like the UN as a development opportunity and a huge source of rural employment and wealth generation.

The modern sector of artisanal gold mining has been strong for some 40 years and because of the jobs it provides poor rural areas, it is clear that it will continue. In fact, it is probably stronger than the industrial sector of gold mining, which it is much more susceptible to fluctuations in gold prices.

In this context, the government and industry should help artisanal gold mining to improve their environmental and social performance to allow maximize its role of reducing poverty.

Need help and support to enter the formal economy, where you can become a responsible sector and help finance a diverse and sustainable rural economy. And this is where comes the Artisanal Gold Council (AGC).

The Artisanal Gold Council is a non-profit organization dedicated to improving opportunities, the environment and health of the millions of people involved in artisanal mining and small-scale gold in the developing world, and in doing so, we are helping to improve the integrity of the entire gold sector, from small to large.

Our strength is in the deep knowledge of the field. Using that knowledge, we work under three main themes: best practices, policies and market development. We focus on improving technology, business practices, governance, health and environmental performance.

For example, we offer seminars to local health professionals on how to identify and treat health problems that are specific to artisanal gold mining sector such as exposure to dust or mercury poisoning.

We create business models for mining with the banking sector which it is increasingly interested in using artisanal gold responsible. For example, we are developing the first mechanism of investment in gold bullion socially responsible, the so-called Artisanal Gold Fund.

We work with local governments nationwide to help them make informed policy decisions about the artisanal gold mining sector. We work with buyers to help them get gold artisanal gold mining responsibly for the international market. And one of our most important roles is to help artisanal miners to improve their processing techniques to eliminate the use of mercury.

In Burkina Faso, Senegal and Nicaragua have established a system of processing and training Mercury that is very intuitive for miners. It consists of technology with which they are already familiar.

It has improved crushing, grinding, hosing and a shaking table separating gold from other minerals. And the system improves the recovery of gold by 30%, giving miners a great economic incentive to stop using mercury.

By wet processing another major health hazard is also reduced, exposure to silica dust. Silica dust is produced in large volumes by dry grinding and damages lung tissue and causes lung disease. Our wet system eliminates this health hazard while using little water.

It has a recycling rate of approximately 90% which is important in most areas of the world, but especially in the dry climate of West Africa. Improved techniques put more money in the pockets of the miners and at the same time reducing environmental and occupational hazards.

The system was not designed to be at the forefront with respect to mining engineering. Rather, it is designed to be affordable, intuitive, easy maintenance, safe and free of chemicals. A system is owned and managed by a Burkinabe businessman soon produce a type of gold desperately needed for the reputation of the artisanal sector, responsibly producing artisanal gold for socially responsible consumers.

Despite the benefits of the gold artisanal mining sector Governments have often sought to eliminate the sector for industrial mining. The problem is that the industrial sector uses a different demographic, few local inhabitants and fewer people in general.

However, both sectors play an important role in developing countries. Industrial mining provides governments with tax revenues and artisanal gold mining provides a large number of rural jobs for the poor.

Developing countries need both sectors. There is no doubt to be made serious improvements in the artisanal sector, but with such a large number of people being supported, It is almost impossible to close the sector.

What can you do with hundreds of thousands of unemployed people? And an even greater number of people are supported by them. The sector has been strengthening for more than 40 years and attempts to close have essentially failed.

When the authorities closed mines, miners always come back for a simple reason, It is so much more profitable a chance to work. And remarkably, these resilient people have developed this sector essentially on their own with little government assistance.

We have reached the tipping point where it is time for governments to recognize this and support the development of this important economy base. The mining industry is capital intensive and requires large deposits, typically deposits million ounces, and these are deep underground soil.

Artisanal miners alone have the means to extract up to 30, 50, and sometimes up to 100 meters. But they exploit much smaller than industrial miners can not deposits. And their capital investment is smaller. Therefore, the two sectors rarely compete for the same resource. The artisanal mining sector can continue slowly sapping small and numerous deposits for a long time in the future. In fact, it is likely that when large gold deposits have been exhausted, there will still be artisanal gold mines.