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Artisanal Gold Miners

Updated on January 17, 2020
Small scale miner panning for gold
Small scale miner panning for gold

Politics and Social issues

5 stars for Artisanal Gold Miners


Artisanal miners are small scale gold mining operation. These miners are maverick or independent gold miners. The last count of mine workers was approximately one hundred million men, women and children. Across Asia, Africa, Latin America and parts of Europe, children have been sighted working in artisanal mines. The lack of mechanical mining equipment results in low productivity increasing back-breaking labour. The environmental impact is devastating for the local people. And tensions have occurred between miners and locals. Countless casualties have occurred involving children. Safety and health measures are a low priority.

The status of gold

The Incas called gold 'sweat of the sun.' The Egyptians called it 'the breath of god'. Gold has a fascinating history it is greatly valued around the world. For thousands of years royalty and nobles wore gold to display their wealth, status and power. It symbolises prestige, luxury and quality. Man's fascination of gold is attributed to its aesthetic properties. Gold leaf can be eaten, although, consumed in large amounts it is toxic. It is used for: coins, currency, dental work, jewellery, computers and so on. It is not known when gold was first discovered, however, geologists have found that over 400 million years ago gold had been dispersed across planet earth. It can be found throughout the world; although, only concentrated areas are mined. The majority of Artisanal miners pan, sluice or sieve barrel for gold.

A young girl breaking-up rocks
A young girl breaking-up rocks | Source

Artisanal mining and environmental issues

Throughout the world artisanal gold miners are damaging land, polluting drinkable water and destroying agricultural lands. This specific style of mining results in deformities, poisoning and typically death to the local people. The miners have been known to dig up harmful matter, for instance, lead that's embedded in the soil.

Mercury and other toxins are used in artisanal gold mining. They have opted to extract gold from ore with chemicals that is extremely harmful to the environment and humans. The process is - once gold and mercury are amalgamated it is burned with an open flame to separate the mercury from the gold. The vapors of the mercury is released usually into the waterways, since gold mines are set up near waterways. The environment and water is exposed to high levels of mercury, for example, the fish and animals - resulting in the locals getting poisoned.

A mine is dug 600 feet below, the price of going deeper and deeper to mine increases environmental risks. Rocks are transported to the surface and ground to dust. The powder is then melted to induce colour and weight of an ounce. Mining gold doesn't blast out mountains, however arsenic and decontaminated vapors are released out of the mines.

Environmentalists cringe at the thought of artisanal gold mining and the impact on the planet and the hunger for gold. Some gold mining industries claim that they are truly sustainable. Environmentalists claim that it is pseudo sustainability, and that mining companies can never be fully sustainable. The damage to the environment outweigh the economic benefits.

Gold in the Ivory Coast mining is dangerous and dirty work

Conflict amongst miners

Disputes occur where governments do not have a lot of control or security in remote areas, therefore, safety cannot be guaranteed for miners working formally or informally.

About five years ago conflict broke out between Ghanaian natives and four thousand illegal Chinese artisanal mine workers. The Chinese were doing widespread damage to the environment. Reported attacks between the natives and the Chinese caused unrests and deaths. A few months later the Ghana government intervened and deported over four thousand Chinese who were mining illegally.

The gold mining industry contributes by alleviating poverty in developing countries. And present new economic potentialities for these countries, cities and people. They negotiate a way to gain access into their gold mines through offering substantial amounts of cash. Firms promise billions of dollars; but leave deep wounds across the landscape.

Governments, bureaucrats, authorities as well as racketeers pay the miners minimal wages and overcharge them for goods needed. The work is labour intensive and the workers are not supplied with safety gear. The miners struggle to make ends meet.

Have you heard of 'conflict free gold'?

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The future of mined gold

Artisanal mining is usually undertaken in developing countries. An element of lawlessness, among the workers, leads to self-governing and potentially volatile situations. The vulnerability of children is greatly increased. These mavericks continue to mine despite environmental devastation. Consumers need to shop conscientiously and establish whether the gold they purchase is conflict free mined gold.

Gold is still a good investment today. Faltering economies can have an effect on world financial markets, thus, increasing or dropping the price of gold. Although, it is expected that the demand for gold will increase, consequently, mining will continue.

To eradicate Artisanal mining. Consumers around the world must demand that all retailers and suppliers trade with conflict free gold.

Eastern gold Congo
Eastern gold Congo

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