13 Jan 2011 11:00
The U.N Minamata Convention on Mercury is scheduled to be adopted and opened for signature at a Conference of Plenipotentiaries (Diplomatic Conference) in Kumamoto and Minamata, Japan from 10 to 11 October 2013.
The booming price of gold in recent years has triggered a significant growth in small-scale mining where mercury is used to separate gold from the ore-bearing rock. Workers and their families involved in small-scale gold mining are exposed to mercury pollution in several ways including through inhalation during the smelting. Mercury is also being released into river systems from these small-scale operations where it can contaminate fish, the food chain and people downstream.
Although the use of mercury for small-scale gold mining is banned in Indonesia, it's difficult to enforce. And there's a hope that the forthcoming ratification of the U.N.'s convention will mean international assistance to help miners change the way they work. Today Indonesia ranks behind only China in the use of mercury in gold mining.
The tradition of mining gold started at least as early as the first millennium BC. Sought after since the beginning of recorded history, gold remains a highly valued metal, reaching record highs on September 2011, Gold prices peaked at $1,921 an ounce. Gold prices rose as investors worried about the potential for another U.S. recession. Recently the bank lifted its gold price outlook for 2013 to $1,446 per ounce from $1,396, and kept its 2014 forecast unchanged at $1,435 an ounce.
This rise in the price of and demand for gold has created a gold rush since the mid 2000 across Ghana, Brazil, Peru and Indonesia to name but a few.There are an estimated 10-15 million unregulated gold miners around the world, operating in 70 countries. Indonesia is one of the world’s largest informal producers of this precious metal.
Currently, Indonesia produces around four percent of global gold production. In Indonesia the government estimates there are 62,000 illegal miners across the country, twice the number working legally.
But it also seeks to recognize the rights of indigenous miners and calls on legal mining firms to provide more help to local communities. One of those local communities is Presanggaran as small town located just east of mount Tumpang Pitu in Banyuwangi, East Java, Indonesia.
The mine has been in operation since June 2009 and local villagers have begun protesting because the waste produced by the mine is polluting the environment.
The gold mine in Tumpang Pitu which is a nature conservation area has sparked controversy in connection with threats to wildlife around the protected forest. Also the contamination by ore and mercury is a menace to the life and productivity of the local community.