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Monday, 1 May 2017

Mercury Pollution and Prevention Measures In Papua New Guinea

Mercury is a heavy silvery-white liquid metal used in some thermometers and barometers. (Symbol: Hg). It is also used to extract fine gold from the mixture of fine sand. Dispose of mercury into the environment is harmful.

Mercury is used in many ways and people do not realize when it gets released into the environment which in turn causes mercury pollution.

In Papua New Guinea almost all Small Scale Miners use mercury in the amalgamation process during gold recovery from the fine sands. Mercury is used in different ways to recover gold. some pour in between the riffles on the sluice boxes in an attempt to capture fine-grained gold.

The contact time between the gold and mercury is not effective for the amalgamation to occur. Often fine gold remains suspended in the flow of particles above the riffles and do not settles to contact the mercury. Thus, about 30  percent (%) of mercury used in sluice boxes in PNG is release into the river systems.This is actually a treat to the environment.

The Mineral Resources Authority's Small Scale Mining Branch in Wau- Morobe Province try its best to train local miners especially small scale miners on Safe Use and Handling Of Mercury in the process of amalgamation. The Training Center also train the miners other alternatives to be use in the gold recovery process to avoid use of mercury.

Other alternative methods of gold recovery techniques the small scale miners should be looking at would be Gravity Separation methods in the recovery of fine gold.
Gravity separation methods are vital and best alternatives to engaged instead of Mercury. Such methods include but not limited to:

  •  Recovery of Fined Size of gold grain should use Shaking table, Humphreys spiral, Pinced sluices, Reichert cone, etc..
  •  Recovery of more finer gold particle should use Nelson concentrator, Falcon concentrator.
The mercury released into the environment is unaccounted for and undetected. Mercury can be detected by a Rapid Pack-test by use of Rapid pack test kits. However, rapid pack test is not available in the country and it is anticipated that pack-test kits will be imported from overseas to use for training and study purposes. 

The next strategy is to ban import of mercury and introduce the alternative gold recovery methods and draft a treatment strategy through research and training. 
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