Puerto Maldonado (Peru) (AFP)
In addition to the direct consequences on deforestation in the Amazon, gold panning contaminates rivers, fish and humans. But a clean extraction exists, ensures to AFP César Ascorra, Peruvian biologist and director of the center of scientific innovation of the Amazon, which calls for the emergence of a market of the "clean gold".
Traditionally used in gold panning, mercury separates gold from rocks or sand, as it adheres to gold forming an amalgam, which is then heated to evaporate the mercury and leave the gold.
Q: What is the impact of mercury?
"Mercury is a heavy metal that affects living things in the organs that have the most metabolism: the nervous system, the heart, the liver, the lungs, the kidneys ... Mercury enters the food chain, in the tissues of the fish and in our tissues.It penetrates the placenta, passes the encephalic barriers, reaches the brain, the nervous system, it can damage the chromosomes, transmit itself to the following generations and cause the disease known as Minamata (intoxication Mercury is hiding behind 160 symptoms: you can have headaches (...), lose sleep, be irritable, suffer allergies, predispositions to cancer, pancreatic diseases anemia, other neurological consequences, poor school performance, poor attention, understanding. "
Q: Is gold panning without mercury possible?
"It is possible to do alluvial gold panning, without using mercury, because unlike extraction in the veins, as in the Andes, where gold is mixed with other minerals and must be purified, the alluvial gold is pure, it is powdered gold, in flakes, the gravity can thus separate the gold (sediments) without the need of mercury.Thanks to this method, the goldsmith uses a kind of carpet that separates gold and sediments by vibration, that is to say, it uses gravity to separate the gold.It gets gold powder, without using mercury. no gold powder, he learned to melt it at high temperatures and sell it like that, without using mercury.This is not high technology, it's just learning new techniques that are If the ordinary citizens and decision-makers were made aware of the seriousness of the problem so that they could take action, the miners would not They would not use mercury, they would only use it in the final phase, in very small amounts in a closed environment, and with 100% recovery.
Q: What is a "clean gold" market?
"The market wants gold, regardless of where it comes from, when we should be able to say, 'I want clean gold, the process of which did not require mercury. If the market was selective, we would also guide the offer. The market should change not only here in the Amazon, where we destroy forests for mining with the use of mercury, but also in the market that generates this demand, which is in the + first world +. Is another gold panning possible? Yes, with social and environmental responsibility, and this must be supported by governments, by citizens, by decision-making and also by the market, which must be selective and condition the demand. "
© 2019 AFP