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Suriname mercury-free gold mining course to start late February
FEBRUARY 3, 2012 • BY STABROEK
PARAMARIBO – Late February, the School of Mining and Mineral Processing will start its first bachelor-level course in mercury-free gold mining in Snesi Kondre (Langa Tabiki). Twenty graduates of the secondary technical school NATIN and bachelor students of mining have already been selected for the six-month course. Construction of the school started in December last year and is expected to be finished late this month. The funds for the building and the school’s equipment were provided by gold mining multinational Iamgold. After finishing the course, the students will teach gold miners to use mercury-free methods. “If we don’t teach the workers in time to work without mercury, restructuring the gold sector is almost a waste of time. Mercury never breaks down, but keeps accumulating”, says John Courtar, who took over on Wednesday as the new chairman of the foundation Mining and Mineral Processing that runs the school. His predecessor Glenn Geerlings has resigned for health reasons. New technology will be taught on the mining school’s campus for introduction in the gold fields, and Courtar says students will gain mainly practical knowledge. Part of the training includes restoration of old mining areas through the use of special plants that can hold mercury and pioneer plants that can be the basis of new forest. The foundation plans to build campuses in Benzdorp and Brokopondocentrum. In December last year, the Suriname Environmental and Mining Foundation (SEMIF) and the School of Mining and Mineral Processing (SMMP) signed an agreement. SEMIF is a foundation that manages a fund which Iamgold is obliged to keep in gold with the Royal Canadian Mint of Canada. This fund is intended for the development of Suriname’s gold sector and now it is worth over US$ 12 million. The project in Snesi Kondre costs some US$ 244,000.
WWF finances Guyanese, Surinamese gold miners to learn mercury-free techniques in French Guiana
NOVEMBER 24, 2008 • BY STAFF WRITER
As the World Wildlife Fund (WWF)-Guianas continues to work with the Guyana Gold and Diamond Miners Association (GGDMA) to improve the industry, over the past week several miners were afforded the opportunity to observe mercury-free mining techniques employed in French Guiana.
The WWF financed the trip for the five Guyanese and five Surinamese, who visited several operations in the French speaking country, which banned the use of mercury in gold mining in 2006. The trip began on Monday and ended Friday. The purpose of the trip was to observe mercury-free and mine rehabilitation techniques employed in that country while the participants also had dialogue with the other representatives from the sectors in the three Guianas.
Given the banning of the export of mercury by the European Union (EU) and the United States, the WWF saw the need to assist miners to find alternatives to mercury use in the gold production process, Rickford Vieira, the WWF Regional Coordinator of the Gold Mining Pollution Abatement programme said.
He told Stabroek News that the organisation had initiated a similar project in 2005 but there had not been much interest from the miners. However, given the recent banning of mercury exports, interest had grown. He noted that the mercury ban would affect the miners and the WWF wanted to assist.
Vieira led the delegation to French Guiana and said that shaking tables, centrifuges and long toms were among the alternative mercury-free mineral processing technologies that were observed. Adopting new equipment was not a problem, Vieira explained, but the current approaches to prospecting made investing seem like a gamble. He noted that in French Guiana, the government undertook a geophysical survey to identify rich deposit areas, allowing investors to determine the range of investment needed, while also catering for proper tailings management and the rehabilitation of mining sites. “They know where the deposits are,” he said, “and that is the advantage.”
The WWF-Guianas, in a recent report, said that in the wake of the mercury export bans, Guyana’s gold mining sector could find it difficult to maintain its current levels of production unless the industry pursued mercury-free options. At the same time, it expressed confidence that the mercury-free exploitation of the country’s gold resources could be achieved without compromising the contribution of gold to the economy, although the sector needed to start investigating alternatives to mercury use in the gold production process and the training of miners in those alternative processes.
The WWF noted too that all of the gold produced locally was done using mercury and had stated that a scarcity in the supply would make the cost of local gold production more expensive. Apart from local miners not being familiar with alternative techniques, these required additional capital investment and competent technical skills if they were to be efficient.
A ban on mercury exports from the 27-nation EU bloc implemented on September 25 will come into force in March 2011, while a similar mercury export ban activated on October 19 by President George Bush under legislation sponsored by US President-elect Barack Obama will come into effect on January 1, 2013.
The WWF is also involved in other areas in the local mining sector and in July signed an agreement with the GGDMA to assist small and medium-scale miners in improving their tailings management practices.