- Côte d’Ivoire acts to reduce mercury pollution from its artisanal gold mining sector
- Over half a ton of mercury is used by Côte d’Ivoire’s miners annually
- $17-million initiative will support access to markets, finance and the uptake of mercury-free technologies by miners
Abidjan, 25th April 2023 – The Ivorian Government has taken decisive action to protect the nation’s health and environment today, launching a $17-million project to reduce the use of mercury in its artisanal gold mining sector.
A toxic chemical used to extract gold from ore, mercury damages the lungs, skin and eyes. The chemical can travel far from where its released, polluting the air, water and soil. In Côte d’Ivoire, high concentrations of mercury have even been found in fish, posing significant health concerns for local populations.
Côte d’Ivoire’s artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector produces over 17 tonnes of gold annually, supporting over 500,000 miners, nearly 80 per cent of whom enter legally from neighbouring countries to mine informally, some from as far away as Cameroon.
Every year, as much as 558 kilograms of mercury are used by miners, often without protective equipment, risking exposure to toxic fumes.
Led by the UN Environment Programme (UNEP), with funding from the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and support from IMPACT the Centre Africaine pour la Santé et l’Environnement (CASE), the Global Opportunities for Long-term Development of ASGM Sector Plus Côte d’Ivoire project – part of the planetGOLD programme – will decrease the use of mercury in Côte d’Ivoire’s mining sector, support formalisation, access to traceable gold supply chains and finance for the adoption of sustainable mercury-free technologies. Côte d’Ivoire joins twenty-two other countries taking coordinated action across the globe through the GEF-funded programme.
“The planetGOLD Côte d’Ivoire project will support the government and national civil society organisations to better organise the ASGM sector, which in many cases is the single source of income for those living in rural areas,” UNEP Task Manager Iñaki Rodríguez said.
“Given Côte d’Ivoire’s position in the region, the project will encourage exchange with neighbouring countries that are part of the planetGOLD family, including Guinea, Mali and Burkina Faso. It will help us assess flows of mercury and gold to improve national legal frameworks and build on existing efforts to support miners.”
Côte d’Ivoire’s National Action Plan was finalised in 2022, the Government launching the Chantiers École initiative to help miners formalise their work through vocational trainings at existing mining sites.
The five-year planetGOLD Côte d’Ivoire project will align Côte d’Ivoire with international best practice, expanding the Chantiers Écoles initiative, as well as supporting mining cooperatives to access international markets and finance, and sensitizing miners on the public and environmental health risks associated with mercury-use.
“Robust, fair and effective markets rely on ethical sourcing,” Alan Martin, Head of Responsible Sourcing at the London Bullion Market Association (LBMA), said.
“The project will establish a relationship between LBMA and the nations’ artisanal miners, who are essential stakeholders in the precious metals industry.”
“Beyond mercury exposure, artisanal miners are increasingly vulnerable to climate change” said Itai Mutemeri, Director at Climate Genius, who have developed the first climate change impact software specifically for the artisanal and small-scale mining sector.
“Through this project, we look forward to helping policymakers and project planners to understand and mitigate the risks that climate change poses to the ASM sector and to build resilience.”
To ensure the experiences generated in Côte d’Ivoire contribute to the development of the AGSM sector globally, the project will share its lessons learned with other countries through the planetGOLD global knowledge platform.
“With the launch of the planetGOLD project, Côte d’Ivoire takes another step forwards towards a responsible ASGM sector,” IMPACT Executive Director Joanne Lebert said.
“Reducing mercury allows miners to be healthier and safer, as well as improve their livelihoods by more easily accessing the international market.”