Artisanal Mining Explored

Published on: March 2017

By Kylie Williams

El Alacran gold mine is nestled in the jungle-covered hills of northern Colombia. The name means “the scorpion” in Spanish, and is a cluster of over 140 informal mining sites, intermingled with the homes of the 195 traditional mining families who operate them. For 40 years, these men, women and children have been extracting ore using rudimentary tools and equipment, just as some 16 million
artisanal gold miners across South America, Africa and Asia do every day.

Not only is this backbreaking work for the miners, but the gold-extraction process harms the wider community and environment too. In the past, mercury-laden tailings from noisy ball mills have polluted the streams and creeks around the Alacran village. School children walk home barefoot from the local school in these streams, and, until recently, village residents breathed in the toxic air
produced from burning gold-mercury amalgam to retrieve the valuable gold.

But today, change is in the air…

Read the full article: Mineral Exploration, Spring 2017