The recent successful field-test of an innovative system for mercury-free processing of gold ore is a significant advancement in the important effort to safeguard the health and safety and improve economic outcomes for artisanal, small-scale gold miners (ASGM) and their communities.
The field tests, conducted with approximately 60 miners in three communities in Colombia’s Chocó and Antioquia departments in mid-April 2023, followed several years of planning and technical analysis by the Alliance for Responsible Mining (ARM) and Mercury Free Mining (MFM), supported by a grant from GIA, the Gemological Institute of America. MFM selected GOLDROP, which uses an innovative yet simple water-flow system to separate gold from other minerals, as the most promising option after reviewing the results from six promising processing technologies.
"The miners we collaborated with were genuinely excited about the GOLDROP system, foreseeing improvements in their gold recovery rates and a reduction in their reliance on mercury," said Toby Pomeroy, executive director of Mercury Free Mining. “Initial results using the GOLDROP system are very promising with fine gold recovery as well as mercury from whole-ore amalgamated concentrates; further analysis will quantify specific data proving GOLDROP’s effectiveness over various mining locales and ore types.”
The GOLDROP system, developed by John Richmond of Sluice Goose Industries and demonstrated at the 2023 AGTA GemFair, is a portable, easy-to-use, cost-effective device that, according to laboratory findings, can capture more fine gold than traditional processing methods, including those using mercury. “I can see that GOLDROP produces some of the highest fine gold recovery I have ever seen," said Juan Camilo Megía Mosquera, Unión Panamericana gold miner, one of the field-test participants.
“The encouraging results of this test are a testament to the value of innovation and commitment,” said GIA President and CEO Susan Jacques. “This great success helps protect ASGM communities and addresses the growing consumer demand for greater sustainability in the gem and jewelry supply chain.”
The next step, targeted for completion in 2023, is a pilot project to analyze the GOLDROP system's efficiency across three or four mining communities in Peru and Colombia.