The planetGOLD programme recognizes the importance of awareness raising in any activity addressing mercury and ASGM, and is developing, piloting, and sharing best practices for awareness raising in nine countries.
The problem of lack of awareness
One of the root causes of mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) is a lack of awareness – of the dangers of mercury, the availability of more efficient ways to recover gold, and opportunities to access finance and shorter supply chains. This lack of awareness can be found in mining communities, in local and national governments, and even among international development and finance experts and gold consumers.
Communicating with miners and affected communities
Like many aspects of ASGM, communicating with miners and affected communities is very site-specific, requiring detailed knowledge of the local context. Awareness raising efforts must consider economic, cultural, and institutional context, as well as language, literacy and education.
Communicating risk, even when immediate impacts are hard to see
A significant hurdle when communicating with miners and others about the human health and environmental effects of mercury contamination is that impacts are often not immediately visible. The pathways of exposure to mercury are complex and responses in humans can range from observable neurological problems (such as tremors) to heart or kidney problems, where effects are more subtle. In addition, the ecosystem response to mercury contamination can vary depending on multiple factors. The communication challenge is to distill these complex topics into compelling messages that are easily understood by and relatable to the target audiences. It can be helpful to involve qualified health -care providers to ensure that information is available to communities that may be impacted by mercury.
The importance of education and training activities
In addition to providing information on human and ecosystem health impacts related to mercury, planetGOLD is providing education and training activities designed specifically for miners and gold processors on techniques for minimizing mercury exposure and for mercury-free gold production, which can often increase gold yield. Direct miner to miner training is one approach that has been particularly successful, as miners have significant credibility with their peers. Gold processors can also be trained in the use of technologies to reduce emissions of mercury.
Increasing awareness of ASGM in politics, finance and business
The planetGOLD programme is spearheading outreach and communication with investors and financial institutions to raise awareness and create a forum where new financial models for the ASGM sector are evaluated and documented. The purpose is to help remove the barriers to investment in ASGM and create champions who will act to increase the awareness of investment opportunities in ASGM. The programme is also working with jewelers to increase support and demand for more sustainable gold among other downstream gold users, government officials, and the public.