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“Our gold is dirty, but we want to improve”: Challenges to addressing mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in Peru
Journal of Cleaner Production  (IF11.072),  Pub Date : 2019-03-08, DOI: 10.1016/j.jclepro.2019.03.076
Nicole M. Smith

Mercury use in artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) has captured global attention and concern for decades. Policy makers and development practitioners routinely promote awareness campaigns and technical assistance to address mercury use in ASGM; however, this focus obscures other barriers that stand in the way of addressing mercury emissions from the sector. Focused on the town of Relave, in the Ayacucho Region of Southwestern Peru, this paper examines the perspectives and practices of some of the community members who are involved with ASGM activities. It highlights their own views of the challenges related to ASGM and explores the ways in which they are addressing these challenges. Despite their efforts, this paper reveals that there are two key barriers to controlling mercury use in Relave, which lie outside of the communities’ lack of awareness and technological capabilities. These include the deprioritization of mercury use and pollution among community members as compared to other community and public health concerns and inequities in the supply chain that position miners and mineral processors with little to no control over the distribution, use, and emissions of mercury. The implications of these findings for policy decisions, regulatory schemes, and development initiatives are not only relevant to Peru, but are also significant for other countries committed to addressing mercury emissions from ASGM.