Mining activities play a significant role in the world’s global economy. In the Guianas, small scale gold mining activities have been carried out for over one hundred years and over the past fifteen (15) years there have been vast increase in artisanal small-scale gold miners, due to the increase in gold prices. Small and medium scale gold mining, (from here on referred to as (ASGM) artisanal small-scale gold mining) provides an important source of income for miners, particularly in rural communities. The sector is generally poverty-driven, comprising of individuals with few, if any, employment alternatives, coupled with the wider economic problems faced by the developing world.
The use of mercury by ASGM has generated enormous benefits however; these benefits over the past decades have resulted in high human- health and environmental costs. As a result, mercury usefulness is on the decline, to foster more effective and reliable environmental friendly alternatives. The ban on mercury for the use in gold mining activities by the European Union (EU) and the United States (US); 2011 and 2013 respectively creates an increase on the world price and scarcity of mercury; this can further be compounded by a worldwide ban of mercury.
Some believe such trends are likely to hasten the adoption of alternative to mercury. The ASGM sector contributes significantly as a source of income for thousands of people and a significant source of employment in Guyana. However, the extensive uncontrolled mining operations are causing significant environmental, health and socio-cultural problem. Which will be further discussed in the literature review, including some of the institutional arrangements problems.
The aim of this study/ research is to examine the preparedness of artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) operations in Mahdia, Guyana, in transforming to mercury-free mining techniques. The principal questions are; (i) to what extent have the small-scale gold miners in Mahdia been trained and made aware of alternative mining techniques to mercury use? (ii) Are the small-scale miners in Mahdia willing to implement mercury-free techniques in their operations? And (iii) what are the major challenges confronting small-scale gold miners in transforming their operations from mercury use to mercury-free technologies?