Most Indonesian artisanal miners working in the country’s community gold mines, have carried on their work that has been passed on through several generations. Nonetheless, the generations before them never learnt first-hand the full extent of the danger of Mercury.
The use of Mercury is rampant in Artisanal Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM). The Minamata Convention on Mercury in 2017 defined ASGM as gold mining conducted by individual miners or small enterprises with limited capital investment. Finding alternative and safer substances to highly toxic Mercury is, therefore, essential to improve the well-being of tens of thousands of individual miners in the country.
To respond to this need, UNDP’s Global Opportunities for Long-term Development of ASGM Sector Integrated Sound Management of Mercury in Indonesia’s ASGM (GOLD-ISMIA) project, with support of the Global Environment Facility, recently conducted training on mercury-free gold mining at a processing plant in Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta. The training aims to improve the skills and understanding of gold processing techniques, without mercury.
The Project works in partnership with the Indonesian Ministry of Environment and Forestry (KLHK) and National Agency for Technology Assessment and Application (BPPT) in six areas to reduce and eliminate mercury use in ASGM sites.
At least 15 artisanal miners from four GOLD-ISMIA project sites in Indonesia took part in the training, with support from a mercury-free processing plant owned by BPPT. The processing plant deploys cyanidation process as a safer way to extracting gold materials from other rock substances. Many ASGM in Indonesia practice a gold extracting method called the amalgamation. This method releases around 57.5 percent of mercury-containing waste into the surrounding areas and can cause long term damage to human health and the environment.
In light of the COVID-19 pandemic, the training was conducted with strict health protocols, observing the social distancing and mask use. All of the participants and the organizers had to go through mandatory COVID tests and quarantine before attending the event.
Conducted from 15 – 18 June, the training is testament to Indonesia’s commitment to the Minamata Convetion. The Indonesian government has signed the Minamata Convention on Mercury as a concrete step toward eliminating the hazardous toxic chemicals. Indonesia’s commitment to combat mercury use has also been bolstered by a recent Presidential Regulation concerning to the National Action Plan for the Reduction and Elimination of Mercury.
The training included a classroom session on waste management cyanidation process and occupational health and safety in gold cyanidation. Miners were trained to conduct gold concentration measurement and mercury-free gold processing using the cyanidation method. Miners also used various tools to enhance their skills in crushing, sorting, and grinding.
“I have learned so much during this training and I hope to replicate what I have learned so far and share knowledge with my peers in Kalirejo and Hargorejo, Kulon Progo.” said Sutarman, one of the participants from Kulon Progo, Yogyakarta.
“The ASGM communities need mercury-free technology so then we can get as much gold as possible and at the highest grade. Us l gold miners learned quite a lot!” said Ikbal Alhasani, a gold miner from North Gorontalo.
Written by Ria Camelina, Field Facilitator GOLD-ISMIA Kulon Progo
Edited by Tomi Soetjipto and Ranjit Jose