Mercury releases to air, water and land from artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) are estimated to be over 2000 tonnes each year1. It is the sector demanding the largest quantity of mercury, with virtually all of the mercury used released to the environment. The sector produces about 12 to 15% of the world’s gold. An estimated 10 to 15 million miners, including 4 to 5 million women and children, are involved in the sector.

ASGM is a complex global development issue. Introducing alternatives to mercury amalgamation continues to be a key challenge, one that is being tackled by many partners. Alternatives should be affordable, cleaner and more efficient at extracting gold, a combination that is well recognized by international agencies, governments, NGOs and academics. However, such a major change in processing requires continuous efforts in formalization, education and organization of miners. Bottom up approaches, involving the miners, are essential.

The Partnership Area brings together a wide range of partners from Governments, IGOs, NGOs, academia and the private sector, who, together, can identify, design and implement sustainable solutions for the sector.


More on Artisanal and Small-Scale Gold Mining (ASGM)


The objective of the Partnership Area is the continued minimization and elimination, where feasible, of mercury uses and releases in ASGM.


The Partnership Area fosters dialogue among practitioners, government policy makers and donors about practical and effective ways to reduce mercury use while strengthening the economic benefits of the sector; disseminates information at national, regional and international events and through active experts networks and on-line platforms; and contributes to the formulation and implementation of innovative approaches to reduce mercury use, from national policies and planning, to on-the-ground projects in ASGM communities.

In addition to finding alternatives to mercury amalgamation, alternative business practices may also be considered. Increasing technical and regulatory assistance as well as government support in mining areas and increased consideration of miners’ needs, motivations and skills may enable changes in reducing polluting practices, as well as supporting law enforcement against illegal mercury importers, smugglers and sellers.

Partnership Area Leads

Ludovic Bernaudat - UN Environment
Susan Keane - Natural Resources Defense Council (NRDC)
Jerome Stucki - UNIDO