Reducing Mercury Pollution in Small-Scale Mining

EPA Grant Number: SU836776
Title: Reducing Mercury Pollution in Small-Scale Mining
Investigators: Smith, Nicole M
Institution: Colorado School of Mines
EPA Project Officer: Sergeant, Anne
Phase: I
Project Period: September 1, 2016 through August 31, 2017
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet (2016) RFA Text |  Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , P3 Awards , P3 Challenge Area - Water

Description:

Identify socially and economically appropriate opportunities for mercury reduction or elimination at artisan and small-scale mining (ASM) sites in Suriname; construct a proof-of-concept prototype; use Human-Centered Design principles; develop a methodology for designing interventions for other sites around the world.

Objective:

The objective of this research is to design and create a mechanism for improving human health and minimizing environmental contamination by eliminating mercury use during the processing of ore in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) operations in Suriname. Efforts to lower mercury emissions from ASGM must enable a way for miners and their families to improve or maintain current gold recovery rates while also maintaining or reducing processing costs. It is equally imperative that the introduction of a mercury-free technology is accompanied by a comprehensive training component. Therefore, this project will identify and design a prototype of a contextually appropriate ore-processing demonstration unit and associated training materials for deployment in Suriname.

Approach:

The research approach is framed around two questions: 1) What is an appropriate mercury-free or mercury-reduced ore processing system for ASGM sites in Suriname? 2) What types of training materials should accompany the ore processing system identified in question #1? To address these questions, the multidisciplinary design team will conduct a literature review on mercury-free processing interventions in Latin America with a focus on the technical and socio-economic opportunities and challenges associated with each intervention. Additional data on stakeholder needs and constraints with respect to ore processing and training materials will be collected using Human Centered Design (HCD) methodologies, which focus on stakeholder involvement and feedback during all stages of the design process through face-to-face and electronic interactions among Surinamese small-scale miners, ASM scholars and practitioners, and the Colorado School of Mines student design team.

Expected Results:

The expected result of this project is a prototype for a mercury-free ore-processing unit and the training materials to accompany this unit. Key measures of success will include the processing efficiency of the unit and the feasibility of introducing the training module in small-scale ASM communities in Suriname. In collaboration with ASM scholars and practitioners and local small-scale miners, the student group will explore partnerships with other institutions, including local and international non-governmental organizations, universities, and federal agencies that can collaborate in scaling up these efforts to contribute to the sustainability of ASM-based livelihoods in Suriname and at other sites in Latin America.

Supplemental Keywords:

Artisanal and small-scale mining, mercury, gold processing, sustainable development, developing countries;