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IPEN

A Toxics-Free Future

Inventory and mapping of mercury use in Artisanal Small Scale Gold Mining (ASGM) sites in Migori, South Western Kenya

The Centre for Environment Justice and Development (CEJAD) conducted a detailed investigation of the extent of mercury use in artisanal small scale gold mining (ASGM) sites in Mikei, Masara and Osiri in Kenya. As part of the investigation, CEJAD conducted a range of interviews and awareness-raising activities with gold miners, their associations and local authorities, related to the hazards of mercury use and alternative, mercury-free gold processing techniques. Critical information was gained as to the largely illegal mercury supply and trade practises of the ASGM activities, and the extent of whole ore amalgamation and other damaging practises. Of great concern was the finding that women are the primary mercury users in the ASGM community (and use no protective equipment), and that exposure to mercury was highest among women and children. In one instance it was revealed that some women use their teeth to squeeze mercury out the mercury/gold amalgam. Other key information obtained included the willingness of miners to use mercury-free techniques and also the barriers to uptake of alternatives that had already been trialled. CEJAD has also developed an online map of the ASGM sites using mercury and a DVD documentary of the project activities, as well as posters and information brochures for distribution. The objective of the project, which was to demonstrate that ASGM in Kenya was ‘more than insignificant’ in relation to Article 7 of the Mercury Treaty and to establish grounds for a National Action Plan to reduce mercury use in ASGM, was achieved.

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