Video of gold miners in Indonesia – Mercury: The Burning Issue

Amalgam of mercury and gold

Amalgam of mercury and gold

I first blogged about the toxic connection between gold and mercury back in December in my post All That Glitters, when the price of gold reached a record high.  Back then, we asked you to join our December Holiday Challenge and you came through – so far we have raised enough money to buy nearly 3,000 additional mercury-recapture retorts. Thank you. Now I have some video to show you so you can see how those retorts are making a difference.

Watch Mercury: The Burning Issue (Part 1) and Mercury The Burning Issue (Part 2) now.

We have been working with a local NGO in Indonesia to introduce these simple, low-cost retorts that gold miners can use to recapture mercury that is burned off in the gold mining process.  We took our cameras out to the mines in Kalimantan to talk to the miners themselves   One man explained that before the retorts,  “my head feels like it’s about to burst and it gets hard to breathe.” His only wish is for a bigger retort so he can process larger quantities.

Now that the price of gold is still high — I continue to see those ads on television asking you to mail in your gold for cash — it is a good time to stop and think where your gold comes from.  At least a quarter of the world’s total gold supply comes from artisanal gold mining in countries like Indonesia. These are small, very labor intensive operations. Often, men, women and kids work together. To understand what it is like on the ground, this video shows how the miners extract the gold – crushing the ore, mixing it with mercury, then burning the mercury off with a propane torch to recover the gold or adding cyanide to release the mercury.  Either way, mercury leaks into the air and environment, and gets absorbed into the ground, contaminating the water. One village of about 2000 people we visited had more than a dozen gold processing sheds.  The miners there have built their own retort but they are only 60% efficient, meaning 40% of the toxic mercury escapes into the air, poisoning everyone in the village.

Slowly we are  starting to make a difference.

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9 Responses to Video of gold miners in Indonesia – Mercury: The Burning Issue

  1. Pingback: Video of gold miners in Indonesia – Mercury: The Burning Issue … | Indonesia Day

  2. Jen Poole says:

    Thank you for making this video, It is good to learn about these issues. I like that the communication with the gold miners and processors was so neutral.
    Keep on doing the good work!

  3. admin says:

    Thank you Jen. Keep checking The Pollution Blog to learn more. The more you know the faster we can all start to make a real difference.

  4. Hey there. You’ve got some very cool blog here, great article. I learned so much from this article.
    Thank you for the information that I got because they are really helpful. love the blog and hope to read more of these from the author! Nice job! God Bless:-)

  5. Taylor says:

    Mercury is definitely nasty stuff.

    Another example of the lengths impoverished people will go to make some type of living from what’s available to them.

    Reminds me of shark slaughter for shark fin soup (not necessarily a pollution analogy, but definitely an environmental one)

  6. Jamison says:

    “Another example of the lengths impoverished people will go to make some type of living from what’s available to them.”

    And how they can easily be exploited.

    And finally, how we can all make a big difference with just a small effort.

    – J

  7. Amy says:

    Very informative video and article. It is very disheartening to learn that all of these people in the village are being harmed by the toxic mercury polluting their air, but that there is no other means of living to employ.

  8. Ursula says:

    I had no idea about this. I have sent it to my cousin, who is a writer for Me to We. He will certainly write an article about this little-known but disheartening issue.

  9. Pingback: “Miracle” Mercury Recapturing Machine « The Pollution Blog

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