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About the GMP

The Global Mercury Project (GMP) began in August 2002 with a vision to demonstrate ways of overcoming barriers to the adoption of best practices and pollution prevention measures that limit the mercury contamination of international waters from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASM). Six countries have been formally participating in the GMP: Brazil, Lao PDR, Indonesia, Sudan, Tanzania and Zimbabwe. The GMP aims to introduce cleaner technologies, train miners, develop regulatory mechanisms and capacities within Government, conduct environmental and health assessments (E&HA) and build capacity within participating countries which will continue monitoring Hg pollution after the project.

Ultimate Goals of the present GEF/UNDP/UNIDO project

  1. to reduce mercury pollution of international waters by emissions emanating from small-scale gold mining,
  2. to introduce cleaner technologies for gold extraction and to train people in their application,
  3. to develop capacity and regulatory mechanisms that will enable the sector to minimize mercury pollution,
  4. to introduce environmental and health monitoring programmes,
  5. to build capacity of local laboratories to assess the extent and impact of mercury pollution.
Initial Project objectives
  • Objective 1A Establishment of a UNIDO- based Program Co-ordination Unit (PCU) and a Global Project Task Force
  • Objective 1B Establishment of the programme management structures in each of the six participating countries ( Brazil, Indonesia, Lao PDR, Sudan, Tanzania, Zimbabwe)
  • Objective 2 Identify project demonstration sites and organize training in technology and raising awareness of miners, Governments, NGOs and the general public.
  • Objective 3 Assess the extent of environmental (mercury) pollution in surrounding water bodies and devise intervention measures.
  • Objective 4 Establish a data-bank comprising of technological requirements relevant to artisanal gold mining and extraction activities.
  • Objective 5 Demonstrate within the project demonstration sites, the application of affordable high-efficiency clean technology.
  • Objective 6 Develop country specific policies and legislation that will lead to implementable standards on the application of mercury.
  • Objective 7 Promote the dissemination of the produced project results and identify opportunities that will allow the project to continue beyond the three year time frame.

Long-term Objectives

The long-term objective of this project is to protect international waters from mercury pollution emanating from small-scale mining operations. Measures and methods to reduce this pollution will be demonstrated in a pilot suite of developing countries located in several key transboundary river/lake basins. The main tools for reducing the pollution consist in assessing the extent of mercury pollution from current activities, introducing cleaner gold mining and extraction technology that minimize or eliminate mercury releases and developing capacity and regulatory mechanisms that will enable the sector to minimize negative environmental impacts.

Broad Development Objective

The broad development objectives of the six participating countries is to transform the current artisanal mining activities into organized activities in order to enhance incomes of the participating members of the population, minimize negative environmental impacts and enhance development of the mineral sector and hence the economy. Like in many developing countries, artisanal mining activities are carried out in the six participating countries mainly as a way of dealing with poverty by the rural populations. Its popularity is enhanced by the fact that its entry does not require much investment and in most cases it operates outside the formal business procedures. With little or no mining knowledge, minimal investment capital and poor legislative frameworks, most activities are unorganized, unregulated and their formal recognition is only recent following the new international drive to fight poverty. As a result, the short-term gains envisaged by miners in order to break away from poverty have largely been outweighed by the negative impacts caused by these activities to the environment, health and safety of the miners and the neighboring communities. In addressing the negative environmental impacts resulting from these activities, some Governments have initiated programmes to address the issues related to the uncontrolled use of mercury in the recovery of gold. However, since most activities have been operating outside the legal framework, major efforts are still directed towards putting in place legislative and regulatory frameworks upon which artisanal mining activities can be conducted.

Global Environmental Objective

The global environmental objective is to assist developing countries create conditions necessary to minimize mercury pollution and other negative environmental impacts on International Waterbodies resulting from artisanal gold mining and extraction activities. Most artisanal gold mining activities within the participating countries are carried out within basins of major ecological significance and that cross geographical boundaries to many countries, e.g., the basins of the Amazon, River Nile, Lake Victoria, River Zambezi, River Mekong and River Kahayan in Indonesia. As such, the negative environmental impacts on the International Waterbodies within these basins are bound to affect many countries most of which do not even have gold mining activities. Whereas the Amazon Basin is the largest drainage system in the world with more than two thirds of its area covered by an immense Amazon Rain Forest which represents about half of the Earth’s remaining rain forest and constitutes the largest reserve of biological resources, estimates show that gold mining activities dump nearly 130 tons of mercury annually within Brazil alone. Nearly 200 tons of mercury is dumped into the environment by these activities in Indonesia and the amount is on the rise in other countries due to the increase in artisanal gold mining activities. The Governments of the participating countries, acting unilaterally are unable to finance the high initial start up costs of dealing with mercury related pollution problems. The proposed project will lead to the establishment of the extent of mercury pollution, increase of knowledge and awareness on environmental issues, introduction and demonstration of the application of efficient and clean technology and provision of assistance to Governments to enable them develop policies and legislation that are practical and enforceable. These efforts will in turn lead artisanal mining activities that are efficient and environmentally acceptable.

Project Inception Document (PDF)