5 April 2019: The UN Environment Programme (UNEP) and the UN Industrial Development Organization (UNIDO) have launched a USD 60 million project titled, ‘Contribution Toward the Elimination of Mercury in the Artisanal and Small Scale Gold Mining Sector: From Miners To Refiners.’ The project will help reduce harmful mercury emissions and protect the health and well-being of the millions of men, women and children working in the industry in Mongolia and the Philippines.

According to UNEP, the artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) sector is the single largest source of human-made mercury emissions. It is responsible for the release of 1,000 tonnes of mercury to the atmosphere each year, and exposes millions of workers to potential poisoning. In Mongolia, 60,000 workers are employed in the sector – one-third of the rural workforce – producing 46% of the country’s gold output and supporting the livelihoods of 180,000 people. In the Philippines, the sector is responsible for 70% of the nation’s gold production, with 500,000 miners providing livelihoods for around two million people.

The project will drive the sector towards a more inclusive, formalized, technology-led and healthy workforce.

The project aims to formalize the ASGM sector in the two countries by helping miners access markets for responsible gold and move to mercury-free mining and processing. “The launch marks the beginning of a robust cross-sector initiative that will drive the sector towards a more inclusive, formalized, technology-led and healthy workforce,” said Batbayar Tserendorj, Vice Minister of Environment and Tourism of Mongolia.

Jacob Duer, Head of UNEP Chemicals and Health Branch, said the project will deliver both global and local benefits, reduce mercury emissions by 40 tonnes over five years, and tackle threats to miners’ health, mercury pollution of water sources and damage to ecosystems.

The project is part of the international Global Environment Facility-backed Global Opportunities for the Long-term Development of the ASGM sector (GEF GOLD) programme. The project is a collaboration with the Artisanal Gold Council and the Governments of Mongolia and the Philippines, with financial support from GEF, Argor Heraeus and the International Labour Organization (ILO). [UNEP Press Release] [GEF Press Release]