Sourcing

Mercury-Free Mining Might Have Found a Solution

SourcingJan 13, 2020

Mercury-Free Mining Might Have Found a Solution

Founder Toby Pomeroy is in Ghana right now testing a technology called Goldrop with artisanal miners.

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Artisanal gold miners at work in Ivory Coast (Photo credit: Reuters, licensed to Mercury-Free Mining). The founder of Mercury-Free Mining, Toby Pomeroy, is in Ghana to witness testing of a solution to the use of mercury in small-scale gold mining worldwide.

Corvallis, Oregon—The founder of the Mercury-Free Mining initiative is in West Africa to test a separation process that could fulfill his organization’s ultimate goal—to eliminate the need to use mercury in artisanal gold mining.

Oregon-based jewelry designer Toby Pomeroy, founder of MFM, left the United States for Ghana on Jan. 8 to begin 10 days of field-testing a technology called Goldrop.

Invented by John Richmond of Sluice Goose Industries and patented in the U.S. in 2018, the technology uses the elutriation process to separate gold, including all heavy elements and minerals, from mineral concentrate and tailings, Pomeroy explained to National Jeweler via email from Ghana.

Elutriation is a process of precipitating out particles by means of an upward current of fluid, often water or air.

The testing will take place in three artisanal mining communities in Ashanti, a region of in southern Ghana known for its gold production.

In a video, Pomeroy described the technology as low-cost, simple, portable and highly efficient.

RELATED CONTENT: What is the Mercury-Free Mining Challenge?
Launched by Pomeroy in 2017, the initial goal of Mercury-Free Mining (originally called the Mercury-Free Mining Challenge) was to get the jewelry industry to put up a $1 million prize for the creation of a safe, scalable and effective alternative to the use of mercury in mining by artisanal gold miners.

Artisanal miners produce 20 percent of the world’s annual gold supply, and almost all of them use the element to separate the gold they find from other materials. They burn off the mercury by heating it, sending toxic particles into the air that are harmful to people and the environment.

In a 2018 interview with National Jeweler, Pomeroy compared his challenge to the Ansari X Prize and the Wendy Schmidt Oil Cleanup X Challenge, which were launched to innovate in the fields of space travel and oil spill cleanups, respectively.

Now, Mercury-Free Mining has not actually raised the $1 million at this point.

But Pomeroy said when Richmond invited the organization to oversee demonstrations and testing of Goldrop requested by the Ghana National Artisanal Small-Scale Miners Association, he felt he could not turn down the invitation.

“His invitation was right on the heels of our realization that MFM needed to help raise awareness of the problem and to, ideally, provide the jewelry industry and the world with an on-the-ground, real-life connection to the people who struggle to
make a living mining for gold and whose only means of being marginally efficient is by using mercury,” he said.

“John’s invitation came at a perfect moment for MFM to help highlight this critical issue and to educate people on the need for a mercury alternative to be discovered.”

Pomeroy said he wants the jewelry industry to directly participate in and support the discovery of an alternative to mercury in artisanal mining.

“We are committed that jewelers can have an inspiring answer to the question, ‘Where is your gold from, and was it responsibly mined?’”

Mercury-Free Mining has launched a fundraising campaign to help raise $25,000 to complete the testing and documentation in Ghana.


Donations can be made through the donations page on the MFM website.

Pomeroy is sharing results from the Goldrop test run on the MFM website’s blog and on social media, including its Facebook and Instagram pages.
Michelle Graffis the editor-in-chief at National Jeweler, directing the publication’s coverage both online and in print.

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