Tag Archives: alluvial mining

Tuke Praised For Alluvial Mining Plans

Post Courier | March 12, 2018

PLANS to reserve alluvial mining for locals has attracted praise from local landowner companies across the country.

Minister for Mining Johnson Tuke said he wants to enable locals to build up wealth and capital to prosper in the next stages of the mining-especially in the mineral rich areas.

An aspiring umbrella landowner company, Tundaka PNG Limited of Mt Tundaka exploration licence area, applauded the move.

The new prospect is located in Enga’s Kandep district along the border with Magarima in Hela.

“As the chairman of the umbrella company, I congratulate Mr Tuke and support this initiative to empower landowners to the landowners to venture into such lucrative businesses on extractive industries,” chairman Pokya Pea said.

He said to break the barrier of landowners being the collectors of royalties only and spectators in their own resource developments is the step in the right direction.

“We can’t be bystanders for foreigners to extract our valuable resources and giving us 2.5 per cent only as equity share especially in the extractive industries.

“The proposal, when established, will strengthen our economy through setting up our bullion bank and financially empowered,” he said.

Mr Pea called on the government to amalgamate the Mineral Resource Authority and the Department of Geo-hazards Management to bring about new extractive projects as well as to build the capital wealth of people.

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App brings alluvial miners, buyers closer

The National aka The Loggers Times | February 26, 2018

ALLUVIAL miners throughout the country will now be able to trade directly with buyers all over the world through a mobile phone application.
The Mintrad app was launched in Alotau, Milne Bay, on Thursday during the Alluvial and Small Scale Mining Convention 2018.
It is an initiative of the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) and is a platform for facilitating trading of alluvial gold.
Miners will be able to communicate with buyers, negotiate prices based on world market prices and get the best maximum selling prices.
It is about making trade easily accessible to simple rural miners in the comfort of their own villages.
The app will be upgraded and improved as trading commences and feedback is received from users.
It was launched by Mining Minister Johnson Tuke and Esa’ala MP and Minister for Justice and Attorney-General Davis Steven.
MRA managing director Philip Samar said the alluvial and small-scale mining sector was the mining sector’s small-to-medium enterprise.
He said launching of the app was consistent with one of MRA’s main target this year, which was to develop the small-scale mining sector through awareness, funding assistance and appropriate technology.
The staging of the convention was an initiative of the Esa’ala district development authority with the leadership and support of Steven.
Samar commended Steven for his initiative and urged other MPs who represent mining districts to partner with MRA to develop the sector.

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Alluvial Mining To Be Reserved For Locals

Post Courier | February 22, 2018

Alluvial mining is now [to be] reserved for Papua New Guineans according to the Minister for Mining Johnson Tuke.

This will also see for regional alluvial (small scale) mining schools to be established in the country and the sector to be funded by the government.

Mr Tuke made this announcement in Milne Bay province during the 2018 alluvial and small scale mining convention and Exposition.

This exposition is a regional initiative of the Esa’ala district development administration in partnership with the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA), and supported by the Milne Bay Provincial Government.

“Since taking office as the Mining Minister, I have been passionately attracted to the growth of the alluvial industry.

“My desire is to help Papua New Guineans to train professionally and acquire necessary skills and knowledge on how to mine the alluvial exceptionally well and build up the wealth capital to be able to engage productively in the exploration and mining stages of the industry,” said Mr Tuke.

He said mining was a sector that Papua New Guinea based its budget on and therefore imperative, under the O’Neill-Abel Government to help the people participate meaningfully in the alluvial sector and generate wealth for the country.

“Enough of outside people mining in the alluvial sector, it’s for our people we can’t be spectators anymore in our own land. I will make a submission to the government to make alluvial mining a reserved activity only for Papua New Guineans,” he said.

There will be four regional alluvial miners’ training centres, to be located in Milne Bay Province (Southern), Wau-Bulolo in Morobe Province (Momase), Kainantu in Eastern Highlands Province (Highlands) and New Ireland Province (New Guinea Islands).

He said the government would fund the alluvial mining sector starting next year to make it accessible for the people to assist them in their alluvial mining activities.

Mr Tuke said the MRA and the Department of Mineral Policy & Geo-hazards Management would be tasked with the creation of a framework to establish the training centres and other necessary technical capacity to empower them.

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Mercury kit study work for small-scale miners

alluvial miners at work

Alluvial miners at work on Bougainville

ONE PNG  | 15 January 2018

A recent mercury research study conducted at the small scale mining branch in Wau, Morobe Province is a collaborative work between the mining engineering department of Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology, the Mineral Resources Authority (MRA) through its small scale mining branch and the University of Kyoto-Japan through the leadership of Professor Takaiku Yamamoto, has released its findings.

The use of mercury has become very popular among artisanal and small scale miners because amalgamation is known to efficiently extract fine particles of gold from concentrates obtained by panning and sluicing operations. Gold alloys with mercury to form an amalgam from which the gold can subsequently be separated by evaporating the mercury.

The simplicity of the technique, low investment costs and its comparatively high gold recovery rate has made the mercury amalgam method an integral part of the artisanal and small scale gold mining operations.

In Papua New Guinea, most of the gold deposits worked by the artisanal and small scale gold miners are alluvial deposits in which the gold particles are liberated from gangue particles. It is customary to use riffled sluice-boxes to recover the liberated gold particles.

However, some of the gold particles, particularly the fine gold, does not settle in the riffle compartments but flows over to be discarded as tailings. In the hope of trapping these fine gold particles the artisanal miners frequently place some mercury in between the riffle compartments.

Then in recent years some semi-mechanised and mechanised alluvial mining operations used grinding mills or amalgam barrels for amalgamation of concentrates derived from their recovery systems before putting it through the knelson concentrators or shaking tables for cleaning.

Due to shear force between centrifugal force and drag force in knelson concentrators or the stratification action of the shaking tables, mercury is easily dislodged from the gold and is lost to the tailings. This is because the bonding mechanism holding gold and mercury together is weak and doesn’t require much force to sever the gold particles from the mercury, and because of size and density differences, mercury ends up in the tailings and eventually in the river systems.

However, by far the most dangerous practice adopted by the miners is the gold recovery process from the gold mercury amalgams. Gold is recovered by evaporating the mercury from the amalgam over an open fire

This process is commonly known as “cooking.” The mercury vapour, which includes fine globules, is partly inhaled while the remainder is released into the atmosphere, which returns as part of the “mercury cycle.”

Methods introduced to avoid the practice of releasing mercury into the atmosphere and which can reduce the mercury loss to less than 0.1 per cent are available but have not been so popular amongst miners due to the discolouring effect on the gold after distillation in a retort.

This discolouration is caused by the presence of iron and arsenic compounds and results in a lower price being offered by gold buyers for the product.

One such device is the “Mercury Retort” which evaporates the mercury in a closed cycle and recovers it by condensing the vapour with cooling water.

Mercury is toxic and an environmental pollutant which drew world attention in 1953 after it was reported that a large number of people living in the Minamata bay area in Japan developed symptoms of disease which affected their central nervous system after consuming fish.

The fish in the bay were contaminated with methyl-mercury as a result of mercury being released into the bay by the Chisso Corporation, a chemical company operating on the shores of the bay. The mercury poisoning was responsible for a variety of clinical symptoms which included speech impediments, failure of muscular coordination, and contraction of visual fields in the eye, disturbance in smooth eyeball movements, enteral hearing loss and unbalance of body. The disease is now commonly known as the “Minamata Disease.”

The recent study conducted at theMRA small scale mining branch in Wau was a collaborative work between the mining engineering department of Papua New Guinea’s University of Technology, the University of Kyoto-Japan and the small scale miners in Wau/Bulolo was to trial a an Amalgam retorting machine from Kyoto University-Japan.

The objective was to test run the Japanese mercury recovery kit, a prototype amalgam retorting machine for the recovery of mercury and critically assess the overall performance, its efficiency and ease of operation of the device.

The promotion and use of the retorts would be very beneficial in the long term as they are capable of reducing discharge of mercury vapour into the atmosphere and the environment. It can also recover bulk of the mercury for recycling which would be a potential economic gain for the small scale miners and the chances of them being poisoned can be minimized through the establishment of central facilities in alluvial mining active areas which will alleviate the more dangerous practice of ‘cooking” amalgams.

A batch of mercury gold amalgam samples were provided by the miners from around Wau/Bulolo mining areas for over a period of one week to conduct the research activity by retorting them in the furnace at four different temperatures (300-500 OC, 300-600 OC, 300-700 OC ,300-800 OC) and the mercury recovery results observed ,recorded and calculated.

From this activity, it is noted that mercury which was emitted during the process was mostly trapped in the condensers 1 and 2.

The carbon filter indicated zero mercury which concludes that the air released at the vacuum pump has zero mercury vapour.

From the results obtained, the research team concluded after careful assessment of the overall performance and efficiency of the mercury recovery kit that it is an appropriate technology and should be promoted and used in Papua New Guinea’s artisanal and small scale gold mining industry for mercury and recycling recovery.

MRA managing director, Philip Samar, who was instrumental in introducing the technology, said the purpose of this collaboration was to reduce and mitigate the increased use and disposal of mercury into the environment and increase alluvial gold production, resulting in the health of both the environment and people plus improving the wellbeing of ordinary PNG alluvial miners.

The MRA through its small scale mining branch in Wau would like to thank its research partners for the collaborative work undertaken.

This has set a milestone in being proactive in reducing and controlling mercury contamination to the environment and the users in the artisanal and small scale mining industry.

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Bougainville and Brazil linked by the disastrous consequences of mining: UN

The polluted Jaba river on Bougainville

UN Environment Assembly moves to curb pollution from extractive industries

UN Environment | 14 December 2017

The city of Mariana, Brazil, and the town of Panguna in the autonomous province of Bougainville in Papua New Guinea, occupy two diametrically opposed parts of the world, separated by more than 10,000 miles.  

They have distinct historical differences, dating several centuries ago, but in a very unique way they share a common story and destiny: that of the adverse effects of a well-intentioned exploitation of natural resources gone awry.

While few inhabitants of both urban centres may have interacted with each other, they have a common story to tell about the disastrous, and often unintended, consequences of natural resource extraction. 

Both settlements experienced the worst mining disasters in their respective countries and highlighted the need for integration of local communities in the planning and execution of extraction of natural resources.

In Panguna, the discovery of copper deposits in 1969 heralded the establishment of what was then the world’s largest open-pit copper mine, which began production in 1972. However, and unbeknownst to many locals at the time, a dispute over revenue-sharing and mine waste management between the local community and mine-operators, would lead to a protracted armed conflict which cost nearly 20,000 lives. 

Despite the official end of the conflict in 2001, Panguna is still grappling with the disastrous effects of the mining.

“Even though the mines and logging on our island produced hundreds of millions of dollars in profit the island didn’t become prosperous. Less than one per cent of the profits of the mine went to local communities. The mine had an enormous impact on our capacity to produce food and access safe water,” said Helen Hakena, the director, of the Leitana Nehan Women’s Development Agency, in Bougainville, during a side event at the Third UN Environment Assembly on 4 December.

“The mine polluted our water and redirected our economy,” she said. 

“Even now much of the population is exposed to mercury used by artisanal miners, including pregnant women, who access the gold. We have a high rate of birth complications and deformities as result,” Hakena added. 

Alluvial miners at work on Bougainville

Alluvial miners at work on Bougainville

Similarly, in 2015 Brazil experienced its worst mining disaster when two dams, owned by the Samarco mining company, collapsed and spewed forth their iron-ore mine waste into nearby rivers including the Rio Doce – an important river basin in southeast Brazil. 

The incident affected communities along the approximately 650 km course of the river, disrupted livelihoods and necessitated a $250 million clean-up operation by BHP Billiton, which jointly run the Samarco mining operation together with Brazil’s Vale mining company.

Inhabitants of both Mariana and Panguna, and numerous other mining communities around the world, are likely to benefit from a UN Environment Assembly resolution aimed at curbing pollution. 

The resolution, which was passed on 6 December, urges governments, and corporations, to work closely with local communities to ensure pollution is addressed.

The resolution aims at strengthening efforts to integrate conservation and sustainable use of biodiversity in various sectors such as agriculture, fisheries and aquaculture, tourism, mining and energy, infrastructure and manufacturing among others. It also points to the need to prevent and reduce pollution from these sectors.

“A new paradigm needs to be promoted: people and planet over profits. It is crucial to have responsible mining and sourcing of metals. There is need for a convergence of ethics and views among governments, business and society as well as the reform of production systems and practices that currently benefit only a few so that they can benefit many people,” said Ligia Noronha the Director of UN Environment’s Economy Division. 

David Granger, President of the South American nation of Guyana, echoed that message in his statement to those assembled for the side event: 

“The world’s natural resources are the patrimony of humanity,” Granger said.

“People therefore, must be at the heart of the development of our natural resources. In the final analysis people must come before profits. The pursuit of profits has been accompanied over the past century by an exponential increase in extractive industries. This expansion, however, has aggravated environmental damage which can have a long lasting and harmful negative impact on human dignity and well-being. 

“Pollution in the extractive industries threatens environmental security.” 

The event coincided with the release of a report on mine tailings dam failures. The publication, Mine Tailings Storage: Safety is No Accident, was jointly produced by UN Environment and GRID-Arendal.

It highlights six case studies of mine tailings dam failures dating back to 1985 and recommends the establishment of a UN Environment stakeholder forum to facilitate international regulation of dams.

Among the most recent major incidents highlighted include the Mount Polley, western Canada, when a mine storage facility failed in August 2014 and 25 million cubic metres of waste water contaminated Lake Polley. 

It also assessed the impact of the 2015 Samarco incident in south-east Brazil when approximately 33 million cubic metres of mine waste travelled 650 km to the Atlantic coast and disrupted water supplies for hundreds of thousands of people.

The side event was attended by delegates from communities that have been affected by mine waste pollution. They talked about some of the adverse, long-lasting and negative effects on their water, land and lives. Representatives of the private sector were also in attendance. 

John Atherton, a director at the International Council on Mining and Metals, said electrification of the mining industry holds “great promise” of cleaner extraction and called for “shared responsibility” in ensuring the reduction of pollution.

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Women as change makers in Papua New Guinea

Alluvial miner on the Watut river

Immaculate Javia* | Earthworks | December 11, 2017

Women around the world have been applauded for breakthroughs in male dominated fronts and for fighting for gender equity. Yet there are others who silently occupy male dominated settings, performing tasks executed by men while also fulfilling their own responsibilities as a woman, as a mother, and as a sister.

Immaculate with a group of miners

In the small-scale mining industry and beyond, women have not been adequately recognized, appreciated and supported for their contribution to economic development as their male counterparts, husbands, sons and brothers. For generations, they have been subjects of abuse, mistreatment, and unfairness, yet they have stood tall in order to make a change in their family circles.

I live in a community where much of the artisanal small-scale gold mining activity in Papua New Guinea (PNG) is concentrated. For the past 7 years, I have trained small scale miners around the country. As the only female professional in this industry, I feel I have a responsibility to represent women miners in PNG, to improve their mining activities and to help address the problems they face.

Women small-scale miners make up 40% of a population of one hundred thousand artisanal small-scale miners in PNG, and 15 million artisanal small-scale miners around the world. Women are a significant portion of the overall workforce and therefore deserve special attention from concerned governments. Even more importantly, female small-scale miners are essential to achieve a more environmentally responsible small-scale mining industry in PNG.

Although under recognized on the national and global fronts for their contributions, women have been important players in a male dominated, male oriented and in a highly controversial industry. These women, many of whom are illiterate, have a special and a very powerful, albeit tiny place of recognition and respect among their male folk.

While small-scale mining supports female miners and the livelihood of many rural communities, the consequences and destruction, often caused by men who have an upper hand, also greatly affect them. Women and children fall victims to:

  • Health and Safety Issues – They are exposed to dangerous and hazardous working environments and conditions such as landslides, floods, waterborne diseases, theft and harassments in work places. They are subjected to using contaminated water from large scale mine effluents, lubricants and mercury from small operations, silt and sediment filled rivers and destroyed water. Sources, which gives rise to water borne diseases like diarrhea, dysentery, cholera, skin diseases, and many others.
  • HIV/AIDS and other Sexually Transmitted Illnesses – Many women fall victims of HIV/AIDS after their husbands contract it. Usually men go into town and cities looking for good markets and end up using money from the gold for illicit activities. Women are always at home fending for their children and often miss out on the benefits of their hard work.
  • Environmental Destruction – Many women walk distances to fetch water, collect firewood or make gardens because of environmental destruction. Many lose homes to landslide, floods, or conflicts over land. Clean water sources are impacted and access to services are denied because public infrastructure such as bridges and roads are destroyed. Women have less opportunity and influence when it comes to speaking out against the destruction of water sources or nearby forests.
  • Women have limited access to capacity building programs because of their illiteracy rates. There is no tailored training to suit many of these illiterate women miners.

Women endure a great deal of negativity in this sector yet they provide for their families and in the process and generate millions in revenue for the government. It is beyond human comprehension that any sane government would deliberately ignore a very significant and important player of economic development.

We believe that women can transform the artisanal small-scale mining industry into a more responsible and environmentally friendly industry. Through a legal framework to regulate the small-scale artisanal mining sector, women will harness their power and voice to advocate for environmental improvements and to encourage change amongst their male relatives. 

It is high time that governments develop specific legal frameworks to give space for women miners to voice the issues affecting them and to be compensated for their tireless contributions to revenue generation from mining activities, often earned at the expenses of their health and families. 

* Immaculate Javia, IREX Community Solutions Program Fellow from Papua New Guinea. Immaculate works to train and empower and women small scale miners in her home country. She has spent the last four months working with Earthworks in our Washington D.C. office. 

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Man builds gold-dredging machine from scrap metal

The National aka The Loggers Times | November 20, 2017

A man from Aseki in Morobe has built a simplified alluvial gold dredging machine using pieces of scrap metal.
The machine, powered by electricity and water, will greatly assist small-scale alluvial miners.
Sam Sky is a Grade 6 dropout from Asini in Salamaua and Bangulum in Bulolo. His alluvial gold-dredging machine was launched during the 103rd Yabem district conference in Aseki which was attended by 14 circuits in the presence of Morobe deputy governor Waka Daimon.
Daimon last Thursday delivered 44 bags of 10kg rice to support and feed the delegations.
Sky said that his first invention was a machine used to husk peanuts after a woman farmer in Markham requested him to build it.
Sky said that it took him two weeks to design and four months to collect materials and tools and another four months to build the peanut pulper.
Sky later designed and built the alluvial mining machine launched last week.

“My aim is to help small coffee farmers and alluvial miners who did not have easy access to services in Lae,” Sky said.

“I also designed and built another alluvial mining machine, soon to be completed that will be powered by water alone that doesn’t need electricity.”

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