Toxic mercury versus appropriate technology: Artisanal gold miners’ retort aversion

Abstract

Mercury-usage in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has accelerated in developing countries during the last thirty years resulting in negative environmental and health impacts. As awareness of mercury contamination from ASGM has grown, a number of strategic initiatives have been introduced to reduce the impact of the toxic substance. The adoption of the retort, a device capable of recycling up to 95 per cent of mercury in gold extraction, constitutes a broadly recognized approach. Based on case-study research in Tanzania, this paper examines an ASGM area, which has been targeted by several mercury-reducing efforts. Based on survey data, key informants interviews, and visitor observations, the paper examines the impact of these efforts on mining techniques and residents’ attitudes towards the use of mercury. Despite the seemingly obvious advantages from adopting retorts or other mercury-reducing techniques – economic, environmental, and health-wise – miners continue to use mercury haphazardly, while demonstrating an only limited awareness of the toxicity of the substance. The paper discusses the possible explanations behind this as well as possible ways forward in facilitating the reduction of mercury in ASGM operations

Citation

Jønsson, J.B.; Charles, E.; Kalvig, P. Toxic mercury versus appropriate technology: Artisanal gold miners’ retort aversion. Resources Policy (2012) 38 (1) 60-67. [DOI: 10.1016/j.resourpol.2012.09.001]

Toxic mercury versus appropriate technology: Artisanal gold miners’ retort aversion

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