Small gold miners face big risk from mercury

Business, Normal

The National, Tuesday November 5th, 2013

 SMALL-scale gold miners in the country still need to learn a lot on the safe use of mercury in gold recovery, Mineral Resources Authority said.

Mercury has posed a big threat to the health of miners using it improperly, MRA said.

This became evident when several miners in Milne Bay showed interest to know more during an awareness drive on alluvial mining, especially mercury use.

MRA conducted the seminar in the province recently, where it circulated information on small-scale mining, landowner issues and other aspects about alluvial gold mining.

Small-scale mining trainer Sam Leonhard said many of the miners asked about the safe use of mercury and the process to acquire an alluvial mining licence (AML).

He said they also asked how they could attend courses on small-scale mining at the MRA’s Wau small-scale mining training centre.

Most of the miners were from Sudest, Misima, Normanbi and Goodenough islands.

Miner Ambros James, who is also a community leader in Rehuo ward in southcoast of Sudest Island, said the distance of Sudest from the provincial administration in Alotau, coupled with lack of means of communication made it difficult for his people to access information such as those that were being circulated by MRA.

James said there were about three to five groups of miners in each of the seven wards on Sudest island.

He said he would collect the mining brochures, booklets and maps available from the MRA display booth and distribute them to these groups so that they would learn the better ways to mine gold.

Misima Islander Steven John said there were more than 1,000 miners on Misima who needed similar information.

John stressed that some miners did not know how to handle mercury safely when using it to recover gold. 

The miners praised MRA for providing the information service to them.