planetGOLD Bolivia: Enhancing the formalization and mercury reduction in artisanal and small-scale gold mining in the Plurinational State of Bolivia
Artisanal and small-scale gold mining (ASGM) counts close to 20% of global gold production. Nevertheless, in many operations the technique of amalgamation is used in gold recovery using mercury, a highly toxic agent for people, animals, soils and the environment. Additionally, in many countries the access of these small-scale miners to the financial sector and the international markets is limited.
In Bolivia the gold production is dominated by ASGM operators organized in cooperatives. The annual production by the end of 2021 is estimated at 46 tons, and recently, driven by high gold prices a gold rush is discussed in the national agenda. This context makes gold mining to one of the most important export goods of the country, counting for more than 22% of exports (by value) in 2022. Besides the high gold prices, environmental, governance and social challenges remain:
- Presence of mercury and deforestation rates are high and harmful for people and environ-ment
- Problems in the implementation of the Minamata Convention, signed by the country in 2013 and ratified in 2016,
- Presence of mining activities in reserve areas and,
- Legislative discussions around taxes for gold mining and the so called “ley del oro” mark the local discussions.
Given this context, the fundamental objective of the project is to reduce the use of mercury in the ASGM sector in Bolivia. This will be achieved through applying a multisectoral approach encompassing regulatory reforms, technical support and by increasing access to finance for ASGM miners. In the longer term perspective, the project aims at the adoption of sustainable mercury free technologies and the creation of responsible, and traceable gold supply chains.
The project has four main components, (i) Enhancing formalization in the ASGM sector; (ii) Access to Finance through better financial inclusion of the AGSM sector, and development of responsible supply chains; (iii) Enhancing uptake of mercury- free technologies and, (iv) Knowledge sharing, communication, and local capacity building support.
This project is part of the Global Environment Facility (GEF) Planet GOLD Programme. In Bolivia, Projekt-Consult GmbH is the executing institution and implements the activities together with a group of specialized Bolivian partner organizations.