Towards a mercury-free future in Mongolia and the Philippines

Towards a mercury-free future in Mongolia and the Philippines

ULAABAATAR, 8 April 2019 With twenty per cent of the world’s gold supply produced by artisanal and small-scale miners, urgent action is needed to reduce the environmental impact of the sector, as well as to protect the health and well-being of the millions of men, women and children working in the industry, according to the backers of a new project to reform the artisanal and small-scale mining (ASGM) sector in Mongolia and the Philippines.

Launched today, the $60-million Contribution Toward the Elimination of Mercury in the Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining Sector: From Miners To Refiners project will work to formalize the sector in the two countries, supporting miners to access markets for responsible gold, as well as to move to mercury-free mining and processing. The ASGM sector is the single largest source of man-made mercury emissions, responsible for the release of as much as 1,000 tonnes of the element to the atmosphere every year and exposing millions of miners and processors to potential mercury poisoning.

 “The launch marks the beginning of a robust cross-sector initiative that will drive the sector towards a more inclusive, formalized, technology-led, and healthy workforce,” Batbayar Tserendorj, Vice Minister of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia said. 

As many as 60,000 people are employed in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Mongolia – one third of the rural workforce – indirectly supporting another 180,000 people and producing 46 per cent of the country’s gold output. In the Philippines, the sector produces 70 per cent of the nation’s gold, with 500,000 miners providing livelihoods for some 2 million people in total. Part of the international GEF GOLD Programme, the Mongolia-Philippines project is led by UN Environment and the United Nations Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO), working in collaboration with the Artisanal Gold Council and the governments of Mongolia and the Philippines, and supported with financing from the GIobal Environment Facility, Argor Heraeus, and the International Labour Organization.

 “The GEF GOLD programme is taking a global yet comprehensive approach, ensuring effective tools and mechanisms are in place for artisanal and small-scale mining communities to continue to prosper while preserving their base resources – the environment and their own health,” GIobal Environment Facility Director of Programmes, Gustavo Fonseca, said.

UN Environment Chemicals and Health Branch Head, Jacob Duer, said the GEF GOLD Mongolia-Philippines project would deliver both global and local benefits, reducing mercury emissions by 40 metric tons over five years, while tackling threats to miners’ health, mercury pollution of water sources, and damage to ecosystems.

“Having launched the global GEF GOLD programme in London last month, now is time to roll up our sleeves and take on the work of building a better artisanal and small-scale mining sector starting in Mongolia and the Philippines,” Duer said.

Stephan Sicars, Director of the Department of Environment at UNIDO, said mercury use in the ASGM sector is certainly a concern for national governments because it has a substantial and long-lasting impact on the global environment. "Therefore, replication and upscaling of the use of mercury-free mining technologies in both Mongolia and the Philippines is key to ensure the effectiveness and sustainability of the project. Training on better practices will be provided on mining, gender, environmental, legal and management to support miners moving toward formalization and financial sustainability." 

For further information, please contact:

Ludovic Bernaudat, UN Environment

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Jerome Stucki, UNIDO

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Kevin Telmer, Artisanal Gold Council

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More information about UNIDO's Mercury Programme